# 10 / 2016

Solutions rather than Litigation

The Responsible Business Initiative demands additional liability clauses for companies to include violations of human rights and environmental standards. These rules would be the world's strictest liability regulations, leading to far-reaching legal, political and economic problems. The initiative leads to a counterproductive juridification. Therefore, the Initiative would ultimately harm just those whom it allegedly is supposed to protect.

Executive summary

The Responsible Business Initiative was launched by a broad alliance of more than 60 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in April 2015. It calls for the world's strictest liability regulations for businesses to control non-compliance with human rights and international environmental standards. The new liability provisions would be unprecedented worldwide and result in a counterproductive "juridification" of the discussion around human rights violations and environmental protection. This would lead to far-reaching legal, political and economic problems. The Initiative is not the right instrument to address the social and ecological concerns of the people in the business cycle who are directly affected. The solution to social challenges lies in the mutual cooperation between companies, the government and NGOs, and in the establishment of "good governance" structures in newly industrialised and developing countries.

Positions of economiesuisse

  • Companies and their management bodies are already accountable for their actions to national legislators and by reason of international obligations. Moreover, an established process to solve possible irregularities already exists: the NCP (National Contact Point) procedure at SECO (State Secretariat for Economic Affairs).
  • With its extensive duties of care and rigid new liability standards, the Initiative also seriously impacts Swiss SMEs, both directly and indirectly.
  • Developments in the field of human rights and environmental standards must be internationally consistent. A Swiss solo effort would damage the interest of the cause and be very detrimental to the attractiveness of Switzerland as an economic centre.
  • An excessive extension of liability clauses would harm the "smart mix", transfer the constructive discussion about corporate responsibility to the courtrooms and stifle positive developments. This would be of little benefit to people and the environment.