Log in
Forgot password ?
Become a member for free
Sign up
Sign up
New member
Sign up for FREE
New customer
Discover our services
Dynamic quotes 

MarketScreener Homepage  >  News  >  Economy & Forex

News : Latest News
Latest NewsCompaniesMarketsEconomy & ForexCommoditiesInterest RatesBusiness LeadersFinance Pro.CalendarSectors 
All NewsEconomyCurrencies & ForexEconomic EventsCryptocurrenciesCybersecurityPress Releases

Swiss firms narrowly avoid 'Responsible Business' liability as vote divides nation

11/29/2020 | 11:59am EST
FILE PHOTO:  A small banner reading:

ZURICH (Reuters) - Swiss firms narrowly avoided facing greater liability for human rights and environmental abuses on Sunday after a national vote rejected the proposal due to regional differences despite it winning majority popular support.

In a divisive referendum, 50.7% of Swiss voters supported proposals by the Responsible Business Initiative (RBI) to extend liability over international human rights abuses and environmental harm caused by major Swiss companies and the firms they control abroad.

But the initiative failed to win support in a majority of cantons, a necessary condition for a public initiative to be enacted in Switzerland, paving the way for a milder government counter-proposal to come into force.

It is the first time in over 60 years a Swiss vote has failed on regional grounds after winning popular support.

"The Federal Council is pleased with the result, but is also aware that many who have fought for years for the initiative are disappointed today," Justice Minister Karin Keller-Sutter said at a press conference.

She said the enactment of new government measures meant supporters would not leave the campaign with empty hands. "The Federal Council is convinced that this is a good way to achieve the common and undisputed goal of better protecting human rights and the environment."

The government proposal will require firms to step up and publicly report checks on their overseas operations and supply chains, hitherto voluntary measures, but stops short of extending liability to Swiss courts.

Proponents of the initiative said its broad public support - a rare, if symbolic, victory for a politically and economically progressive issue in the traditionally staid country - remained cause for sharper scrutiny of multinationals and commodities firms in one of the world's leading commercial centres.

"Human rights is such a fundamental issue. People understand you can't justify human rights violations by economic considerations," Florian Wettstein, a professor for business ethics at the University of St. Gallen and co-organiser of the initiative, told Reuters.

In a polarizing campaign, the government and multinationals denounced the negative economic consequences of the proposal, while activists, religious groups and various political factions argued Switzerland risked falling behind other countries in tackling progressive social and economic issues without it.

"It was the most aggressive campaign I've ever experienced in my 20 years in politics," parliamentarian Christa Markwalder told Swiss broadcaster SRF.

Meanwhile, voters more clearly rejected a proposal seeking to impose a ban on funding arms makers, the latest anti-military referendum in a nation that has not fought an external war for 200 years.

The vote, which held implications for major Swiss banks and investors including the country's central bank and pension funds, as well as Swiss industry, received 57.5% rejection.

Organisers said the more than 40% approval gained by the initiative, spanning beyond the country's most left-leaning political camps, nonetheless put pressure on arms financing and showed the need for further action.

(Reporting by Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi; Editing by Kirsten Donovan and Jan Harvey)

By Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi

© Reuters 2020
Stocks mentioned in the article
ChangeLast1st jan.
BARRY CALLEBAUT AG 0.10% 2008 Delayed Quote.-4.66%
CERRO DE PASCO RESOURCES INC. 1.45% 0.35 Delayed Quote.-9.09%
CREDIT SUISSE GROUP AG 0.61% 12.33 Delayed Quote.7.50%
GLENCORE PLC 0.46% 281.75 Delayed Quote.20.30%
NESTLÉ S.A. -0.14% 100.68 Delayed Quote.-3.30%
NOVARTIS AG 0.00% 86.02 Delayed Quote.2.82%
RAIFFEISEN BANK INTERNATIONAL AG -0.17% 17.54 Delayed Quote.5.46%
ROCHE HOLDING AG 0.13% 320.1 Delayed Quote.3.56%
SRF LIMITED 0.68% 5866.9 End-of-day quote.5.30%
Latest news "Economy & Forex"
05:30aInvestors get their Biden bounce on
05:03aSouth Africa's retail sales down 4% year on year in November
04:56aETF & ETP STATISTICS 2020 : Sustainability, thematic ETFs and cryptocurrencies in investor focus
04:33aEuro gains before ECB meeting; Biden stimulus weighs on dollar
04:13aMODERN TIMES : Entain names Jette Nygaard-Andersen CEO after rejecting MGM deal
03:54aTaiwan central bank to punish four banks over grain arbitrage case
03:51aECB to chart steady course even as the outlook dulls
03:45aBeijing faces high food prices ahead of Lunar New Year due to lockdowns nearby
03:44aANALYSIS : A lot of hot air? Investors snap up hydrogen stocks in green frenzy
03:43aBank of Japan lifts next year's growth forecast, saves ammunition as virus risks linger
Latest news "Economy & Forex"