Article by Dr. Pietro Poretti

On 28 September 2020 the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) released new reporting Guidelines for companies buying oil, gas and minerals from governments.

Payments by companies purchasing natural resources generate a significant portion of public revenues in some of the world’s poorest countries. Such payments are exposed to governance risks as they may take place in environments of weak institutions and widespread corruption. Risks have been identified at various levels, including the selection of buyers and allocation of sales contracts; sales transactions and collection of revenues; and transfer of proceeds to the treasury. The EITI Guidelines represent a further step towards greater transparency in natural resources and complement mirroring reporting requirements for selling entities, building on the 2019 EITI Standard which requires governments to disclose volumes received and sold as well as revenues from any oil, gas or mining-related deal.

The 2020 Guidelines’ key disclosure requirements for buying companies are as follows:

  • Who is selling the product? (counterparty name – seller; counterparty country, load port)
  • Who is buying the products? (buying entity name)
  • What product is being purchased? (product type; volume purchased)
  • What does the buyer pay to the seller for the product?

Companies can use the templates annexed to the Guidelines for their disclosures. The forms offer different levels of disaggregation of the data presented: volumes and values by individual seller; volumes by cargo, and values by individual seller; or volumes and values by cargo. Further, the Guidelines address swaps and resource backed loans. Three Swiss-based commodity trading firms (Glencore, Gunvor and Trafigura), are already disclosing their transactions around oil and mining where states or SOEs are concerned in yearly reports.

Beside demonstrating their financial contribution to the economies of the countries from which they purchase commodities, regular disclosures can increase a company’s reputation and its social license to operate. Improved transparency may also facilitate access to capital from financial institutions, notably in light of the investors’ growing sensitivity to environment, social and governance (ESG) criteria, as well as the emergence of sustainability-linked financing schemes. As more and more governments in the 55 EITI implementing countries include information on receipts from the sale of natural resources in their annual reports, company-level reporting also provides companies with the opportunity to contextualize and complement information being disclosed by state and state-owned enterprises counterparts.

Switzerland is not an EITI implementing country. Nevertheless, through the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), Switzerland has directly supported the elaboration of the EITI Guidelines and is urging trading companies to use the Guidelines to build trust in a more transparent and accountable commodity trading sector. Promoting the development and adoption of a global standard also serves the purpose of preserving the level playing field vis-à-vis other trading hubs. Last but not least, Swiss-based companies can shape the development of future disclosure standards by taking part in the activities of the EITI Working Group on Transparency in Commodity Trading, a forum which also includes representatives of civil society, host and home countries governments and state-owned enterprises.

The reform of the Swiss corporate law recently approved by the Parliament stops short from requiring companies to disclose payments to SOEs for the purchase of natural resources. The amendments to the Swiss “Code of Obligations” – not yet in force – mirror the content of EU Directives 2013/34 and 2013/50, requiring companies active in the exploitation of natural resources to publicly disclose in a special report all payments to public authorities that exceed CHF 100,000 per year. Thus, this new disclosure requirement will only affect companies that extract raw materials. Nevertheless, the Federal Council is authorized, as part of an “internationally coordinated approach”, to extend the scope of application to companies that trade raw materials (see new Art. 964 f of the Swiss Code of Obligations).

Public attention towards good governance and transparency is growing, as shown by the narrow rejection of the “Responsible Business Initiative” in Switzerland. The Biden administration has been urged to reengage with EITI after the previous administration decision to withdraw the United States from the initiative in 2017. These elements, combined with increased challenges for public budgets posed by COVID-19, suggest that the high-water mark for boundary-pushing transparency standards may still lie ahead of us.

The EITI Guidelines and the reporting templates are available at this link

Dr. Pietro Poretti currently serves as Head, Economic Development Division, Città di Lugano. In 2019-2020 he consulted for the EITI Secretariat and assisted in the development of the transparency Guidelines.

In order to tackle the COVID-19 emergency, the Canton of Ticino has activated an information hotline for companies: 0840 117 112attivita-commerciali@ti.ch

16 April 2021

Coronavirus: Next phase of reopening on 19 April

8 February 2021

Coronavirus: special rules for entering Switzerland

These rules apply to all people who are permitted to enter Switzerland. That means they also apply if you are Swiss and returning to Switzerland after being abroad. You will find information on the individual rules and requirements at this link.

27 January 2021

Federal government to cover costs of tests for persons without symptoms and modify quarantine rules

The federal government will now pay for persons without symptoms to be tested so that those who are particularly vulnerable can be better protected and local outbreaks of infection can be contained early on. The quarantine rules have also been modified: with a negative test result a person may now come out of quarantine after seven rather than the full ten days.

13 January 2021

Federal council extends measures

  • restaurants, cultural venues, and sports and leisure facilities are to remain closed until the end of February
  • requirement to work from home
  • shops selling non-essential goods will be closed
  • restrictions on private events and gatherings
  • protecting people at especially high risk

12 August 2020

Large-scale events to be permitted from October under strict conditions and with a permit

The Federal Council took the decision to re-allow events for more than 1000 people from 1 October. Strict protective measures will apply and the events will have to be authorized by the cantons.

The Federal Council has also decided that masks will have to be worn during flights from 15 August. The wearing of masks on public transport has been compulsory since 6 July. The measure concerns all scheduled and charter flights taking off from or landing in Switzerland, regardless of airline.

26 June 2020

Workers from third countries to be permitted to enter Switzerland again

Workers from third countries to be permitted to enter Switzerland again

  • Since 11 May various steps have been taken to relax restrictions on entry to Switzerland.
  • 6 July the Federal Council will lift all corona-related restrictions on the admission of workers from third countries.
  • Third-country citizens are still not permitted to travel to Switzerland on holiday: entry for a stay of less than 90 days that does not normally require a permit will only be authorized in cases of special necessity.
  • Admission to work in the tourism or culture sectors again possible or to take education or training courses while working, e.g. as an au-pair, agricultural trainee or on a youth exchange program.

12 June 2020

Switzerland to lift COVID restrictions regarding all EU/EFTA states

The Federal Council took note of the decision taken by the FDJP to lift the entry restrictions that currently apply between all Schengen States as of 15 June. Controls at Swiss borders with these states will end on this date and full free movement of persons will be restored with all EU/EFTA states and with the United Kingdom.

Full free movement of persons with EU/EFTA states and the UK.

From 15 June, full free movement of persons will once again apply with all EU/EFTA states and the United Kingdom. All EU states with the exception of Bulgaria, Ireland, Croatia, Romania and Cyprus belong to the Schengen area. These six countries will remain on the high-risk list after 15 June, which means that restrictions will continue to apply to third country nationals wishing to enter Switzerland from these countries.

27 May 2020

Federal Council decides on extensive easing of measures as of 6 June

All events for up to 300 people may now go ahead. 
Spontaneous gatherings of up to 30 people are now permitted. Large-scale events with more than 1000 people continue to be prohibited until August 31st. All leisure and entertainment businesses and tourist attractions may reopen. Hygiene and social distancing rules must still be observed. The Federal Council has also decided to end the extraordinary situation under the terms of the Epidemics Act with effect from 19 June.

Recommendations on working from home remain in place. 
Businesses are free to decide on a return to the workplace. The Federal Council continues to recommend that people continue to work from home, not least to avoid overcrowding on public transport. Staff at especially high risk continue to enjoy protection. Employers are still required to allow people at high risk to work from home. If it is essential for someone to work on site, the employer must take steps to protect that person by adapting working processes or the workplace.

16 April 2020 

Federal Council to gradually ease measures against the new coronavirus

The Swiss Federal Council has decided that step by step starting from April 27 (in Canton Ticino from May 4, due to a more delicate situation), May 11 and June 8, companies are allowed to reopen provided they have a protection plan in place. (Art. 6, para 3, Ordinance 2 COVID-19)

The aim of the protection plan is to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Here are some basic principles for preventing transmission:

  • Hand hygiene and surface disinfection
  • Social and professional distancing
  • Encouraging teleworking and virtual meeting, installing physical barriers in the offices
  • Protection of vulnerable persons
  • Sick people should stay at home

And more concretely for a company:

  • All persons in the company shall clean their hands regularly.
  • Employees and other persons shall keep a distance of two meters between them.
  • Clean regularly surfaces and objects
  • Vulnerable persons are given adequate protection
  • Sick people are sent home
  • Employees and other persons concerned are informed of the regulations and measures taken
  • The instructions are implemented at management level in order to effectively implement and adapt the protective measures.

15 April 2020

The Canton of Ticino presented the first step to ease measures against the COVID-19 in force from April 20 to April 26. here

27 March 2020

The Canton of Ticino has updated the measures to fight COVID-19, here the last Order.

25 March 2020

Federal Council adopts emergency ordinance on granting of credits with joint and several federal guarantees

The Federal Council adopted emergency ordinance on granting of credits with joint and several federal guarantees. During its extraordinary meeting on 25 March 2020, the Federal Council addressed the issue of liquidity assistance for SMEs, which should have rapid access to credit facilities to bridge liquidity shortfalls caused by the new coronavirus pandemic. Companies are advised to apply for the credit facilities at their main bank. Facilities will be secured by the Confederation. The corresponding ordinance enters into force on 26 March 2020, from which date credit applications can be submitted.

A quick and straightforward process;

Affected companies can apply to their banks for bridging credit facilities representing a maximum of 10% of their annual turnover and no more than CHF 20 million. Certain minimum criteria must be met. In particular, the company must declare that it is suffering substantial reductions in turnover because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Credits of up to CHF 500,000 will be fully secured by the Confederation, and will be paid out quickly and with the minimum of bureaucracy. Zero interest will be charged. The credit application form will be available on the website “covid19.easygov.swiss” from Thursday, after the ordinance enters into force.

Bridging credits that exceed CHF 500,000 will be secured by the Confederation to 85% of their value; the lending bank will secure the remaining 15%. Each company can obtain a credit of this type for up to CHF 20 million, which means a more rigorous bank review will be required. The interest rate on these credits is currently 0.5% on the loan secured by the Confederation. Companies with a turnover of more than CHF 500 million are not covered by this programme.

More details and credit application form: here

21 March 2020

The Canton of Ticino has implemented new measures to fight COVID-19


All cantonal measures can be seen on the following website: https://www4.ti.ch/dss/dsp/covid19/home/

With regard to the measure on the closure of economy RG 1570, in particular as to point 7“All activities that can be carried out remotely at home are permitted. Access to offices is not permitted for the public. Any presence in the office must be limited and is only possible in compliance with the rules of hygiene and social distance”, trading companies are invited to extend smart-working from home as much as possible and, as far as possible, to keep in the office only a minimum number of staff that is essential for the main activity. This staff should respect the rules of hygiene and social distance. Under no circumstances are the offices open to the public.

16 March 2020

Federal Council declares ‘extraordinary situation’ and introduces more stringent measures

The Federal Council has declared an “extraordinary situation” in terms of the Epidemics Act and has introduced new measures. The declaration of “extraordinary situation” allows the Federal Council to order the introduction of uniform measures in all cantons.

As of March 16 at midnight until April 19 all shops, restaurants, bars and entertainment and leisure facilities will remain closed. Not affected by the new measures are food stores and pharmacies. The Federal Council has also decided to introduce checks on the borders to Germany, Austria and France (to Italy this measure was already taken). The Federal Council has also authorised the deployment of up to 8000 members of the armed forces to assist the cantons at hospitals and with logistics and security.

USEFUL DOCUMENTS

  • Press release of the Federal Council (16.04.2021): here
  • Press release of the Federal Council (08.02.2021): here
  • Press release of the Federal Council (27.01.2021): here
  • Press release of the Federal Council (13.01.2021): here
  • Press release of the Federal Council (12.08.2020): here
  • Press release of the Federal Council (26.06.2020): here
  • Press release of the Federal Council (12.06.2020): here
  • Press release of the Federal Council (27.05.2020): here
  • Press release of the Federal Council (16.04.2020): here
  • Cantonal Order 1827 (15.04.2020): here
  • Cantonal Order 1649 (27.03.2020): here
  • Federal Order 2 COVID-2019 (27.03.2020): here
  • Press release of the Federal Council (25.03.2020): here
  • All cantonal measures: here
  • Press release of the Federal Council (16.03.2020): here
  • Cantonal measures to support Ticino economy (16.03.2020): here
  • Information on the reduced working hours allowence: here

The secretariat of LCTA is operating, in case of any questions do not hesitate to contact us (info@lcta.ch).

Last update: 10 February 2021

La Lugano Commodity Trading Association (LCTA) è un’associazione senza scopo di lucro e riunisce aziende attive nell’ambito del commercio di materie prime, delle spedizioni, delle assicurazioni e del finanziamento di questo settore. Nel 2020 la LCTA ha festeggiato i suoi primi 10 anni e dopo un decennio, il Presidente Thomas Patrick ha deciso di dimettersi. Il Comitato Esecutivo della LCTA, secondo gli statuti, ha eletto il nuovo Presidente: Matteo Somaini, General Manager Finance, DITH. La LCTA vorrebbe cogliere l’occasione per ringraziare il Presidente uscente e sottolineare l’eccezionale contributo da lui dato alla nostra associazione. Thomas Patrick ha sempre mostrato un grande impegno e investimento personale ed è stato fondamentale per i progressi che abbiamo fatto come associazione in dieci anni.

Il cambio di Presidente è stato comunicato ai soci della LCTA in occasione dell’Assemblea Generale Ordinaria che purtroppo quest’anno, a causa della pandemia di COVID-19, non ha potuto tenersi in presenza, ma è stata organizzata in forma scritta. Vorremmo così presentarvi il nuovo Presidente della LCTA con un’intervista.

Sig. Somaini, lei è coinvolto nella LCTA dall’inizio, 10 anni fa, cosa ci può dire dell’evoluzione dell’associazione negli anni?

Quando ci siamo incontrati per la prima volta più di dieci anni fa – la Camera di Commercio, una società di trading e una banca – eravamo sei persone consapevoli che il nostro ambiente fosse in rapida evoluzione, con l’obiettivo di creare valore nelle aree della formazione, del networking e della comunicazione con il pubblico. Dopo dieci anni, la LCTA conta 53 associati e facciamo parte della STSA – l’associazione nazionale con cui coordiniamo la maggior parte delle iniziative pubbliche riguardanti il ​​settore. La nostra associazione organizza formazione continua per le persone attive nel commercio di materie prime e abbiamo avviato da alcuni anni il corso post-laurea “CAS Commodity Professional”, in collaborazione con la Zug Commodity Association e la Hochschule Luzern. Organizziamo una conferenza annuale che attrae a Lugano persone da tutta Europa e partecipiamo ad eventi selezionati all’estero, puntando a creare nuove opportunità per i nostri soci e promuovendo Lugano come importante piazza per il commercio internazionale di materie prime.

È il risultato del duro lavoro del nostro segretario, del presidente uscente e del board, con la collaborazione di tutti i nostri associati. Dieci anni fa non era scontato, soprattutto vista la scarsa abitudine delle nostre aziende al confronto con il pubblico e a fare sistema.

Qual è secondo voi il più grande punto di forza di LCTA?

Direi che è il senso di comunità. In Ticino siamo circa 70 aziende ed impieghiamo oltre 2.000 persone. Con il tempo credo sia maturata nei soci la consapevolezza che non siamo solo individui che lavorano nello stesso settore, spesso si occupano di materie prime diverse, a volte competono sullo stesso mercato. Siamo una comunità, condividiamo lo stesso territorio (Lugano è la nostra base, il mercato globale è il nostro ambiente di lavoro), condividiamo interessi e valori. Penso che la consapevolezza di questo senso di comunità sia allo stesso tempo il principale punto di forza dell’associazione, nonché uno dei risultati più significativi della LCTA nel primo decennio di attività.

Cos’è particolarmente importante per lei come Presidente della LCTA?

Sicuramente considero in primo luogo che tutti i soci si sentano rappresentati nei valori dell’associazione, con l’obiettivo di preservare e far crescere la comunità che abbiamo “scoperto”. In parallelo, la LCTA dovrebbe continuare a concentrarsi per supportare i membri e le nuove aziende del settore, condividendo il know-how e creando valore attraverso la nostra rete.

Cosa non vedi l’ora di fare come Presidente dell’associazione?

Quando abbiamo iniziato a discutere l’idea dell’associazione, nel 2010, stavamo superando una delle più gravi recessioni economiche della storia, percepivamo che il mondo sarebbe stato diverso e avremmo dovuto adattare rapidamente il nostro modus operandi, per soddisfare nuove esigenze, soprattutto sotto la spinta del settore finanziario. È stato uno dei motivi che ci ha uniti. Oggi ci troviamo di fronte a qualcosa di simile, in una certa misura più estremo, probabilmente più rapido, che certamente influisce pesantemente sulle nostre vite quanto sui nostri modelli di business.

La Svizzera è il principale paese al mondo per il finanziamento del commercio di materie prime, primo paese per il trading di energia, metalli e materie prime agricole, e il Ticino è uno dei tre Commodity hub in Svizzera. Compagnie di navigazione con sede in Svizzera movimentano oltre il 20% delle merci spedite via mare. Abbiamo le migliori aziende che forniscono servizi, gestiscono logistica e rischi, a tutti i livelli della catena di fornitura di ogni categoria di merce.

Non vedo l’ora di collaborare con il nostro board, tutti i nostri membri e i nostri colleghi in Svizzera – e perché no in altre importanti piazze in tutto il mondo, come Londra, Singapore e Dubai – per raccogliere le nuove sfide. È un’opportunità di innovazione unica, non solo basata sulla tecnologia. Possiamo guidare la trasformazione attraverso un’innovazione responsabile e spostare l’industria verso un approccio basato sulla co-opetition, mirando a risultati di lungo periodo e sostenibili, per creare valore per tutti gli stakeholder.

Article by Carlo Mazzoleni, Associate Lawyer, Studio Mazzoleni

Photo by Guillaume Périguois

On 1 January 2021 the EU Regulation 2017/821 of 17 May 2017 (the “Regulation”)[1] will come into force, establishing new mandatory supply chain due diligence obligations for EU-based importers of certain raw materials (tin, tungsten, tantalum and gold) originating from conflict-affected and high-risk areas.

The Regulation aims to prevent that the trade of these minerals directly contribute to finance armed conflicts and/or grave human rights abuses, such as forced labour of mine workers. To this end, the Regulation require EU importers to respect international responsible sourcing standards, set by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in its “Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains from Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas”.[2]

1. Companies and Businesses Affected

The Regulation applies to EU-based importers of tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold, whether these are in the form of mineral ores, concentrates or processed metals, provided that certain annual volume thresholds are exceeded. Annex I to the Regulation[3] sets out specific thresholds for most of the covered materials, while the EU Commission has defined the remaining thresholds on 25 June 2020 through a delegated act.[4]

The Regulation does not apply to:

  • EU importers where their annual import volume of each of the minerals or metals concerned is below the provided thresholds;
  • Recycled metals, which includes “reclaimed end-user or post-consumer products, or scrap processed metals created during product manufacturing, including excess, obsolete, defective, and scrap metal materials which contain refined or processed metals that are appropriate for recycling in the production of tin, tantalum, tungsten or gold”;
  • Stocks which were created on a verifiable date prior to 1 February 2013.

Indirectly, the Regulation concerns smelters and refiners of the covered materials, whether they are based inside the EU or not: EU importers will be indeed required to avoid dealing with smelters and refiners whose due diligence practices are insufficient or associated with risks. The EU Commission is expected to establish and keep updated a “list of global responsible smelters and refiners” that are deemed to fulfil the requirements of the Regulation.  

2. Conflict-Affected and High-Risks Areas

The Regulation targets minerals and metals originating from conflict-affected or high risk areas, without being limited to specific geographical locations. The areas considered to be conflict-affected or high-risk are:

  • areas in a state of armed conflict;
  • fragile post-conflict areas;
  • areas witnessing weak or non-existing governance and security, such as failed states;
  • in all cases, areas with widespread and systematic violations of international law, including human rights abuses.

The EU Commission is expected to call upon external expertise that will provide an indicative, non-exhaustive, regularly updated list of conflict-affected and high-risk areas.

While no definitive list has been published yet, EU importers are encouraged to make this assessment themselves based on non-binding guidelines issued by the Commission for the identification of conflict-affected and high-risk areas.[5]

3. Due Diligence Obligations

The Regulation requires EU importers to carry out risk-based supply chain due diligence, defined as an ongoing process through which economic operators monitor and administer their trades with a view to ensuring that they do not contribute to armed conflict or adverse human rights impacts.

In practice, EU importers have to comply with five main obligations provided by Articles 4, 5, 6 and 7, which explicitly recall the five-steps framework established by the above mentioned OECD Due Diligence Guidance. EU importers of the covered minerals and metals should:

  1. Establish a strong management system and clearly communicate to suppliers and the public their policy, which includes engaging with suppliers to integrate these standards in their supply contracts and develop a traceability system for imported minerals (Article 4);
  2.  Identify and assess actual or potential risks in the supply chain, as defined in Annex II of the OECD Due Diligence Guidance (Article 5 (1) (a));
  3. Design and implement a strategy to respond to the identified risks in order to prevent or mitigate adverse humanitarian and human rights impacts (Article 5 (1) (b));
  4. Carry out independent third-party audit of the company’s activities, processes and systems used to implement supply chain due diligence, in particular regarding the due diligence practices of smelters and refiners (Article 6);
  5. Publicly report on supply chain due diligence policies and practices, both to member state authorities and also publicly, and they are obliged to make related information available to their customers (Article 7).

4. Implementation

According to Article 10, the enforcement of the Regulation will be up to the EU member states, which are expected to designate one or more competent authorities responsible for the application of the Regulation. Competent authorities will carry out appropriate ex-post checks of how EU importers comply with the regulation, which includes audits of records as well as on-the-spot inspections (Article 11). In any case, it is worth recalling that the Regulation will enter into force on 1 January 2021.


[1] https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX%3A32017R0821

[2] https://www.oecd.org/corporate/mne/mining.htm

[3] ANNEX I “List of minerals and metals within the scope of Regulation (EU) 2017/821 classified under the Combined Nomenclature”

[4] https://ec.europa.eu/transparency/regdoc/rep/3/2020/EN/C-2020-4164-F1-EN-ANNEX-1-PART-1.PDF

[5] https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX%3A32018H1149

di Luca Albertoni, Direttore Cc-Ti

L’iniziativa in votazione il prossimo 29 novembre ed esposta come “multinazionali responsabili”, si chiama in realtà per “imprese responsabili”.
Differenza da non sottovalutare e che deve fare riflettere a fondo, perché significa che le regole supplementari non sarebbero imponibili solo ad alcuni giganti, frequentemente considerati come “poco simpatici”, bensì a tutte le aziende svizzere attive direttamente o indirettamente in ambito internazionale. Piccole e medie imprese comprese.

I dati parlano chiaro: sono almeno 80’000 le aziende svizzere che esercitano attività potenzialmente coinvolte a livello internazionale, di cui 5’364 solo in Ticino. Dati evidenziati dal Consiglio federale e non contestati.
Sarebbe quindi una percentuale importante dell’economia svizzera e ticinese a doversi confrontare con l’applicazione dell’irrazionale supplemento di regole previste dall’iniziativa. Ad esempio, citiamo la presunzione di colpevolezza. Le violazioni non dovrebbero più essere comprovate da chi le invoca, bensì vi sarebbe l’obbligo per le imprese chiamate in causa di dimostrare la propria innocenza, a fronte anche solo di pure illazioni. Supposizioni che comporterebbero danni reputazionali di entità incalcolabile e a prescindere dall’esito delle procedure. Danni basati su semplici accuse e, per la stragrande maggioranza dei casi, mai realmente concretizzabili davanti alle istanze giudiziarie.
Nessuno, il mondo economico del nostro Paese in primis, intende spalleggiare chi non rispetta i diritti umani o l’ambiente, atteggiamento indifendibile. Ma proprio l’eccellente reputazione internazionale delle aziende svizzere (o anche semplicemente con sede in Svizzera) ha ampiamente dimostrato che questa sensibilità è già molto sentita oggi e presa a carico. Tutti coloro che tradiscono questa serietà umana e aziendale è giusto che scontino i propri sbagli e rispondano secondo le regole vigenti della nazione ospitante, come già succede attualmente. Non necessitiamo di altre regole.

Chi opera in ambito internazionale è attualmente, e già da tempo, confrontato con tutta una serie di norme complesse e decisamente severe, sia per le proprie attività sul piano nazionale che internazionale. Un esempio: il settore delle raffinerie d’oro, molto presente in Ticino, spesso criticato e accusato arbitrariamente, è un settore che deve sottostare a decine di regole molto ferree e considerate all’avanguardia sia sul tema della sostenibilità ambientale che sociale.
Se, come prevede il testo dell’iniziativa in votazione, le aziende svizzere dovessero essere dichiarate responsabili della condotta non solo delle imprese da loro direttamente dipendenti e controllate, ma anche di quelle accostate a qualsiasi relazione d’affari, ben si capisce come questo vincolo renderebbe di fatto impossibile la maggior parte delle collaborazioni, in quanto controlli di questo genere sono assolutamente inattuabili.

Un altro esempio: pensiamo che un IPhone conta ca. 10’000 componenti e 40 materie prime, con fornitori per ogni categoria che possono variare a seconda dei mercati e quindi, spesso, addirittura quotidianamente. Le stesse caratteristiche valgono anche per molti prodotti industriali prettamente elvetici.
A loro volta i fornitori fanno capo a catene proprie, anche quelle spesso site nell’area internazionale. L’immensa difficoltà della ricerca di continui riscontri nella fitta rete di contatti di lavoro dimostra che l’applicazione dell’iniziativa sarebbe solo un ulteriore ostacolo esasperato per le aziende 2 svizzere (e oltretutto solo per le nostre realtà), non risolvendo o alleviando comunque le eventuali problematiche legate alla protezione dei diritti umani e dell’ambiente.

Il controprogetto del Parlamento, che entrerebbe in vigore in caso di rigetto dell’iniziativa, costituisce di fatto, una sufficiente supplementare base legale restrittiva, che pone la Svizzera eticamente all’avanguardia nel contesto mondiale.

The popular vote on the Responsible Business Initiative will take place on November 29, 2020.

Here below you will find the video by STSA, in cooperation with LCTA and ZCA. The video is now available on public transport around Switzerland. Watch it and help us by sharing it on social media, with your employees and contacts.

In Italian

In German

In French

Florence Schurch
Secretary general of STSA, is at your disposal to answer your questions:
+41 22 715 29 90 / florence.schurch@stsaswiss.ch

The popular vote on the Responsible Business Initiative will take place on November 29, 2020 and the campaign will start this summer. On that date, the Swiss people will be able to vote for or against the initiative.
If the population accepts the initiative, it would still have to be implemented on a statutory level. If the initiative does not reach the majority of votes, the indirect counter-proposal will be adopted (subject to a referendum). The reporting and due diligence obligations would then need to be observed for the first time in the financial year commencing one year after the entry into effect.

KKS counter1. Key elements of the Initiative-proposal

The RBI seeks to introduce a new article 101a to the Federal Constitution. This article proposes the following key requirements for companies with registered office, central administration or principal place of business in Switzerland (Swiss companies) :
– Respect all internationally recognized human rights and international environmental standards in Switzerland and abroad and ensure that companies under their (actual) control do the same.
– Conduct appropriate due diligence with respect to risks to human rights and the environment by identifying actual and potential impacts, take measures to prevent and cease existing violations, and report on such measures. These obligations extend to controlled companies (subsidiaries and suppliers).
– Accept liability for damage caused by companies under their control by violation of internationally recognized human rights and international environmental standards in the course of business, unless they prove to have complied with their due diligence obligations (reversal of the burden of proof).

The Swiss Parliament supports the main goal of the initiative that is the respect for human rights and the environmental through business, but concluded that the initiative went too far and would significantly weaken the attractiveness for Switzerland as a business hub. Instead, it supports the indirect counter-proposal.

2. Key elements of the indirect counter-proposal

Non-financial reporting duties

A new proposed provision in article 964bis ff. of the Swiss Code of Obligations would require public companies, banks, insurance companies and other supervised companies in the financial sector, which together with controlled companies in Switzerland and abroad (the Group) :
(i) have at least 500 full-time employees on annual average, and
(ii) exceed either total assets of CHF 20 million or revenues of CHF 40 million, to report annually on non-financial matters in a separate report.
These provisions are in line with the Non-Financial Reporting Directive of the EU.

The report must contain information necessary to understand the Group’s business development, performance, position and impact of its activity on environmental (incl. CO2 targets), social, employee, human rights and anti-corruption topics. The report has to include but is not limited to a description of :
(i) the business model,
(ii) policies pursued and due diligence carried out,
(iii) main risks resulting from the Group’s own operations and, where relevant and proportionate, from its business relationships, products or services,
(iv) measures taken and assessed, and
(v) the main non-financial key performance indicators.

The report may be based on national, European or international reporting standards, such as the OECD guidelines for multinational enterprises or the standards of the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) among others. A reporting company may choose not to report on topics with respect to which the Group does not pursue policies. This would, however, require the report to provide a clear and reasoned explanation. Furthermore, the report is subject to approval by the board of directors and by the general meeting of shareholders but it does not need to be audited.

Due diligence obligations in connection with conflict minerals and child labor

Swiss Companies that (i) import or process minerals or metals containing tin, tantalum, tungsten or gold from conflict or high-risk areas, or (ii) offer products or services where there are reasonable grounds to suspect that child labor was involved, are subject to special due diligence and related reporting obligations with respect to their supply chain. The Federal Council may define certain exceptions.
Companies would be required to implement a management system with a defined supply chain policy and a system to trace back the supply chain, identify and assess actual and potential risks of adverse impacts in their supply chain, implement a risk management plan with measures to prevent or mitigate such risks, and issue an annual report on the compliance with these obligations. Additionally, companies importing or processing minerals or metals must appoint an independent third party to carry out audits on the compliance with the abovementioned obligations.

As far as criminal liability is concerned, the proposed provisions foresee that anyone who makes false statements in, or fails to provide, a required non-financial report will be fined with up to CHF 100’000.

Florence Schurch
Secretary general of STSA, is at your disposal to answer your questions:
+41 22 715 29 90 / florence.schurch@stsaswiss.ch

Contribution by AXA.

For AXA this year 2020 represents a new challenge. Since June 2019 we have enlarged our team by hiring Simona Busetti who is responsible for broker management in the Italian market. Since the beginning of the year, for the first time in Ticino, we also have a dedicated credit underwriter, Andrea Pugliatti, focused on the analysis of Italian risks and, in general, the Ticino market.

This move on our part will bring added value for our customers, who will now have a key reference point for the analysis of debtors directly in Lugano. With Andrea, we will be able to offer our clients even more personalized and high-value advice.

In terms of market environment; at a global level, after years of stability, we see a stagnant economy, with an expected growth of 2.5% of GDP compared to 2.4% in 2019 (source world bank). For Italy,  growth expectations for 2020 were +0.2%, which currently seem unlikely given the impact of the coronavirus, which is leading Italy into a technical recession (government source).

The steel sector in Italy, but also in Europe, is being significantly impacted by:

– the US-China tariff war, strengthening the influx of Chinese products into the EU  despite the clauses established by the EU Commission to prevent this,

– the strong increase in raw materials used in the sector, from iron ore to coke

– overcapacity for already high inventories

– ILVA affair, where ArcelorMittal has created, and is still creating, difficulties for the industrial sector , especially mechanics.

Steel production in Italy, after a good 2018, suffered a contraction in 2019 of -4.1%, driven by the crisis in the automotive sector and the static demand for rebar, against a global production growth of 3.9%. Demand remains compressed for coils and carbon steel sheets, mainly due to low import prices from Turkey. The latter is contributing on several fronts such as the drop in nickel prices since the end of 2019.

In Europe, insolvencies, after a stagnant period, increased again by 2% on average, with some countries improving and some stable countries such as Italy. One of the key factors for the slow recovery of the Italian economy is certainly linked to political uncertainty and the lack of reforms.

This excludes the potential impact of Coronavirus on the health of Italian and other European companies with supply and order problems, which will emerge in the next months/years.

AXA’s commitment in trade credit insurance remains strong and will continue to develop its offering and risk analysis services in its current key markets; Switzerland, Italy, Germany, Spain, Morocco and Singapore.

Quest’anno la Lugano Commodity Trading Association (LCTA) festeggia il suo 10° anniversario. La LCTA è un’associazione senza scopo di lucro e riunisce operatori che ruotano attorno all’ambito del commercio di materie prime, delle spedizioni, delle assicurazioni e del finanziamento di questo settore. Per commentare la crescita e l’evoluzione dell’associazione abbiamo intervistato il presidente, Thomas Patrick.

Cosa ha fatto la LCTA per l’industria del commodity trading nel corso degli anni?

La LCTA è stata costituita nel 2010 originariamente come associazione di otto membri tutti attivi nel settore delle materie prime con l’obiettivo primario iniziale di migliorare la comprensione dell’indotto economico del commodity trading in Ticino. Il commercio di materie prime non gode del riconoscimento di un marchio e come tale non dipende dalla pubblicità come mezzo di marketing per la vendita di prodotti; ciò rende il settore esclusivamente privato. Le aziende di materie prime sono raramente quotate in borsa (Glencore fa eccezione) e la maggioranza è detenuta da privati, spesso anche con la formula dei manager-azionisti. Tra gli altri soggetti interessati vi sono le banche, le compagnie di assicurazione, i broker navali, i centri logistici e gli spedizionieri, senza i quali il settore non potrebbe operare. La base di conoscenza del business è affidata a queste società e organizzazioni partner, che operano in modo riservato, data la complessità e la natura particolare delle operazioni gestite dai commercianti di materie prime. Non essendoci un marchio riconosciuto, le aziende devono distinguersi attraverso la qualità del servizio e le competenze di gestione del rischio. Non è comune per le aziende del settore delle materie prime cooperare a causa della sensibilità delle informazioni su prezzi e clienti. È proprio qui che la LCTA entra come importante canale di comunicazione e di formazione all’interno del settore delle materie prime. La LCTA ha stabilito una voce comune per i suoi membri che può essere più chiaramente compresa quando rappresenta il settore di fronte alle autorità locali, regionali e federali.

Quindi la LCTA si occupa anche di formazione?

Certo. Una serie di competenze altamente sviluppate è necessaria per spostare le materie prime in modo efficiente e sicuro attraverso la catena di approvvigionamento, che dipende più dai professionisti che non dalle infrastrutture. La LCTA organizza una serie di moduli di formazione annuali o corsi aperti al personale dei membri dell’associazione per ampliare o adattare le loro conoscenze operative. La LCTA, inoltre, offre una borsa di studio ad almeno un candidato iscritto al corso di studi avanzati per professionisti delle materie prime (CAS Commodity Professional) dell’Università di Lucerna, in collaborazione con la LCTA e la Zug Commodity Association. L’investimento nello sviluppo delle competenze e nella formazione superiore incentrata sulle materie prime è fondamentale per l’importanza che i professionisti rivestono nel successo del business delle materie prime.

Come si è evoluta la LCTA negli ultimi 10 anni? 

Come detto, la LCTA è stata costituta nel 2010 con 8 membri fondatori. Oggi i membri sono saliti a 58 e coprono un’ampia gamma di attività che comprende: commercio di energia, carbone e metalli; raffinazione di metalli preziosi; assicurazioni e banche; spedizioni e trasporto di materie prime.

Vi è una significativa concentrazione di aziende attive nel settore delle materie prime sia a Ginevra sia a Zugo, rappresentate rispettivamente dalla Swiss Trading & Shipping Association (STSA) e dalla Zug Commodity Association (ZCA). Nel 2015 la STSA si è affermata come associazione mantello per l’intero settore svizzero delle materie prime, la LCTA e la ZCA aderiscono come membri istituzionali. Si è trattato di uno sviluppo importante, data la necessità di affrontare collettivamente le questioni a livello federale, con la STSA nella posizione migliore per affrontarle.

Quanto è importante il commercio di materie prime per il Canton Ticino?

Il carattere privato delle aziende di materie prime rende difficile valutare appieno il contributo economico apportato collettivamente dalle imprese attive nel settore. In Ticino stimiamo che le aziende attive nel settore delle materie prime siano pressappoco 120 con circa 75 milioni di franchi di gettito fiscale e contribuiscano in maniera importante al PIL del Cantone. Nel contesto internazionale la Svizzera è il più grande hub mondiale per il commercio di materie prime. La sua quota di mercato globale è stimata al 35% per il petrolio, al 60% per i metalli e al 50% per lo zucchero e i cereali. Alcune delle maggiori aziende mondiali sono imprese di commercio di materie prime domiciliate in Svizzera. Non va sottovalutata l’importanza del settore per una circolazione globale sicura ed efficiente delle merci.

Dopo più di un decennio di globalizzazione che ha promosso l’apertura dei mercati e la riduzione delle barriere commerciali, l’attuale movimento è caratterizzato dalla sfida di azioni protezionistiche e dal ridimensionamento delle politiche nazionaliste che invocano tariffe e quote che sono complesse per l’attività dei commercianti di materie prime. Il ruolo del trader di materie prime rimane essenziale per lo spostamento delle merci e la gestione di tutti i rischi, ma la difficoltà di gestione oggi significa che possono sopravvivere meno le piccole aziende. Si tratta meno del commercio e più della spedizione e dello stoccaggio delle merci, dell’attenuazione del rischio di pagamento e della capacità di finanziare una catena di approvvigionamento estesa. Questo rende la LCTA e le sue associazioni affiliate più importanti come luogo in cui le informazioni possono essere condivise tra i membri e le competenze sviluppate per affrontare le sfide di un mercato in continua evoluzione.

Qual è il suo augurio per la LCTA per il suo 10° anniversario?

Questo è il decimo anniversario della LCTA, che purtroppo è segnato dal più minaccioso allarme per la salute pubblica della nostra vita. Anche se non c’è dubbio che sopravvivremo alla crisi sanitaria, è probabile che la “nuova normalità” rifletterà un cambiamento nel comportamento sia personale sia professionale. Sono un ottimista per natura e credo che il cambiamento di comportamento sarà in meglio e non in peggio. Per la LCTA credo e spero che l’associazione sarà resa una piattaforma ancora più forte e fornirà un canale ancora più vigoroso per la condivisione di informazioni tra i suoi membri, così come una voce più forte per educare il pubblico sull’importanza del settore per lo spostamento dei beni di base dalla fonte di origine o produzione al punto di consumo.

The Responsible Business Initiative: Headstart for the KKS Counter-Proposal in the Conciliation Committee 

Following back and forth consultations between the two Chambers (Council of States and the National Council), and with differences still remaining between both of them following the three votes, a Conciliation Committee was formed on June 4. After a fast discussion (only 45 minutes), the Conciliation Committee voted for the KKS counter-proposal with 15 to 11 votes.

This decision taken by the Conciliation Committee was then submitted for a vote to the National Council on June 8 and on June 9 to the Council of States.

  • The National Council accepted the decision of the Conciliation Committee in favour of the KKS counter-proposal with 99 to 91 votes and 6 abstentions.
  • The Council of States voted in favour of the KKS counter-proposal with 28 to 14 votes and 2 abstentions.

Therefore, the popular vote will take place on November 29, 2020 and the campaign will start this summer. This vote will be preceded by the popular vote of September 27 on the free movement of people with the EU: “For moderate immigration (Limitation Initiative)”, which may jeopardize the bilateral path Switzerland has taken in its relation with the EU until this day. As a result, until September 27, all national and local trade associations will be dedicated to contest the Limitation initiative.

KKS counter-proposal

The content of the Conciliation Committee’s proposal is in line with international standards. Firstly, the non-financial reporting duty is in line with an EU-Directive and the standards have been adapted to the conditions in Switzerland. Secondly, an additional due diligence requirement specific to risks associated with child labour in the value chain and trading of conflict minerals was introduced. These requirements go further than the current international standard and only the Netherlands have already implemented a regulation with similar content. As far as liability is concerned, the Conciliation Committee’s proposal adheres to the existing and internationally recognized liability provisions and eliminates any newly proposed liability provision, ensuring legal certainty (no reversal of the burden of proof).

Responsible Business Initiative

The initiative calls for the creation of a new liability provision of parent companies (large companies and SMEs in high risk sectors, such as mining and commodity trading) for wrongful acts of a controlled company (subsidiaries and suppliers) abroad. The catalogue of rights includes all internationally recognized human rights and environmental standards. The concrete consequences of such a liability provision, which would be unique internationally, are very difficult to foresee in detail. The initiative would increase legal uncertainty and; as a result, it will also endanger jobs, not only in Switzerland but also abroad. If a subsidiary of a Swiss parent company violates human rights, victims can directly sue the parent company in Switzerland for damages. To this end, the injured parties must be able to prove in court the damage suffered, its unlawfulness and an adequate causal link. If they succeed in doing so, the Swiss parent company would still have the possibility to free itself from liability, if it can prove that it has exercised all due diligence to avoid this specific damage (reversal of the burden of proof). In addition, Swiss courts would have jurisdiction in the event of liability claims, regardless of the existence of effective remedies in another country with a closer connection to the facts and a recognized legal system.

Florence Schurch
Secretary general of STSA, is at your disposal to answer your questions:
+41 22 715 29 90 / florence.schurch@stsaswiss.ch