The Responsible Business Initiative will be put to vote on 29 November 2020. The SIA understands what the initiators want to achieve but believes that it is the wrong way forward due to its unclear consequences for Switzerland as a business location. The indirect counterproposal that will enter into force on rejection of the initiative, however, is effective. It creates the desired obligation for companies without introducing an experimental global liability with a reversal of the burden of proof.
As responsible companies, Swiss private insurers believe that the goals and values of the Responsible Business Initiative are important and should be an integral part of all business activities. Human rights and environmental standards should be observed and adhered to by businesses worldwide. The members of the Swiss Insurance Association (SIA) assume economic responsibility through choice. Within the context of corporate responsibility programmes, they implement measures for ensuring compliance with recognised standards in the areas of human rights and the environment, for example, and also regularly report on these activities. The SIA, however, does not support the way in which the goals pursued by the initiators are to be achieved. With its scope, liability rules and reversal of the burden of proof, the initiative goes far beyond international standards. It misses the target, harms the Swiss economy and has an unintentional boomerang effect for people in developing countries.
With the indirect counterproposal, the Swiss Parliament has agreed an internationally coordinated rule that supplements the voluntary measures already taken by Swiss companies to assume responsibility for their business activities. For Switzerland, this would mean a far-reaching reporting obligation and a duty of due diligence (including reporting) in the areas of conflict minerals and child labour that is in line with European regulations. It would adopt EU best practices and combine the world’s most progressive regulations into an internationally coordinated concept that can be adapted as necessary.
The law would achieve the desired legal obligation for companies in our country by threatening Swiss companies with punishments and fines in the event of breaches. In contrast to the public initiative, the indirect counterproposal would not lead to a special Swiss rule that would unnecessarily harm Switzerland as a business location.
Note to editors
The Swiss Insurance Association (SIA) represents the interests of the private insurance industry at national and international level. The association comprises around 75 primary insurers and reinsurers, which together employ 47,700 people in Switzerland and a further 100,000 abroad. The member companies of the SIA account for more than 85 per cent of premiums generated in the Swiss market. As a major force in the Swiss economy, the insurance industry assumes economic responsibility at a business, social and political level wherever key success factors of its locations are at stake.
Swiss Insurance Association SIA, Sabine Alder, sabine [dot] aldersvv [dot] ch, direct dial +41 44 208 28 20