- Swiss voters on Sunday rejected sweeping responsible business standards that would have held multinational companies liable for their conduct abroad, reports Swissinfo.
- The Responsible Business Initiative would have amended the constitution, adding penalties for Swiss-based companies committing human rights abuses abroad.
- A razor-thin majority of voters approved of it, with 50.7% in favor vs. 49.3% against, but the measure also needed support from the Swiss canton voting system, according to public data.
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Switzerland on Sunday reportedly rejected sweeping responsible business standards, which would have held multinational companies liable for their conduct abroad, despite a razor-thin majority of citizens voting in favor.
The Responsible Business Initiative would have amended the constitution to increase penalties for Swiss-based companies committing environmental or human rights abuses elsewhere, according to reports from Agence France Presse and AP.
Vote counting was was still under way, but enough of the country’s 26 cantons, or voting districts, had reported results to call the vote, according to Swissinfo, a division of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation.
About 50.7% of the population approved, while 49.3% rejected the measure, according to public voting data. But the measure also needed support from a majority of cantons to pass. Of 26 total cantons, 14.5 voted against the measure.
—Florian Wettstein (@bhrwettstein) November 29, 2020
Peter Ungphakorn, a former World Trade Organization secretariat, discussed the result on Twitter. He wrote that Sunday’s vote marked the first time in about 65 years that a measure had been passed a popular vote but failed due to the Swiss canton system.
The country’s bigger cities, including its French-speaking capital, Geneva, voted in favor of the measure.
As a result of the loss, an alternative measure will be put into place, reports AP. That measure “wouldn’t require companies to answer to Swiss courts, and would focus on issues like mining of minerals drawn from conflict zones or child labor,” the AP reported.
“This means that the counter-project, a toothless reporting law, will be put in place instead,” said Florian Wettstein, a professor at University of St Gallen, an organizer of the initiative, on Twitter.
More than 29,000 multinational companies call Switzerland home, which creates jobs for about a quarter of all the total Swiss workforce, according to Agence France Press. Neither the Swiss parliament or government supported the initiative, saying it went “to far,” it added.
The initiative was the result of a decade-long project backed by a group of non-governmental organizations, reported Swissinfo. It would have held Swiss-based companies responsible for human rights abuses that happened abroad, unless ” they can prove that all due care has been taken,” according to a summary of the proposal from Ernst & Young.