Popular Initiative ‘For responsible businesses – protecting human rights and the environment’

On the 29 of November 2020 the Swiss electorate voted on the Popular Initiative ‘For responsible businesses – protecting human rights and the environment’.


Swiss companies are expected to uphold human rights and comply with environmental standards, not just in Switzerland but also when doing business abroad. Switzerland has played an active role in drawing up uniform international standards and has taken measures to ensure these standards are implemented. For the authors of this initiative, however, these measures do not go far enough. They have therefore launched the Responsible Business Initiative, which aims to introduce new statutory obligations for Swiss businesses.

The proposal  

The initiative requires Swiss companies to examine whether they can comply with internationally recognised human rights and environmental standards when carrying out their business operations. They will not only have to consider their own activities, but also the activities of their subsidiaries, suppliers and business partners. If need be, they will have to take action and submit reports. In addition, Swiss companies will also be liable for damage caused by companies that they control. However, they will not be held liable if they can prove that they complied with their due diligence obligations. Parliament has approved an indirect counter-proposal to the initiative, which also introduces new reporting and due diligence obligations. Any failures to comply would lead to fines being imposed. The counter-proposal will come into effect if the initiative is rejected, unless the counter-proposal itself is rejected in a referendum.  

Last modification 11.07.2022

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