Switzerland: ICJ regrets rejection of Responsible Business Initiative but strong popular support is a historic achievement that should count for the future

The ICJ and its Swiss section (ICJ-CH) regret the results of the vote yesterday in Switzerland rejecting the popular initiative for responsible businesses. While the majority of the popular vote approved the initiative, there was no majority of voters in a majority of Cantons.

Under the Swiss constitution, to be approved, such initiative amending the constitution needs the majority of both the popular vote in Switzerland and in a majority of Cantons part of the Swiss Confederation.

“The  strong support gathered by this initiative, expressed in the majority of the popular vote, is encouraging, and a strong message that the  Federal Parliament and the Federal Council must take into account in the process of the implementation of the legislative counter-proposal and in further legislation,” said Marco Sassòli, ICJ commissioner.

A counter-proposal prepared by the Federal Council is now approved by default. This counter-proposal foresees due diligence obligations for some sectors and reporting obligations, but no specific legal liability.

The proposed initiative would have required multinationals based in  Switzerland to respect human rights also abroad, and to carry out human  rights due diligence to identify and prevent potential human rights abuses.

It would also have clarified the multinational’s legal responsibility for violations of internationally recognized human rights and environmental norms by enterprises that it controls and operate  abroad.

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