by Luca Albertoni, Director Cc-Ti

The initiative that we will vote on November 29 is presented as “for responsible multinationals”, but it is actually called “for responsible business”.

A difference that should not be underestimated and that should make you think deeply, because it means that the additional rules would not be imposed only to some giants, frequently considered as “unsympathetic”, but to all Swiss companies active directly or indirectly in the international arena. This includes small and medium companies.

The figures speak for themselves: there are at least 80’000 Swiss companies potentially involved at an international level, among them 5’364 in Ticino. This data has been highlighted by the Federal Council and not contested.

It would be therefore an important percentage of Swiss and Ticino economy which will be confronted with the application of the irrational supplement of rules foreseen by the initiative.

For example, we cite the presumption of guilt. Violations would no longer have to be proven by those who invoke them, but there would be an obligation for the companies involved to prove their innocence, even if they are pure allegations.

Assumptions that would result in incalculable reputational, regardless of the outcome of the proceedings. Damages based on simple accusations and, for the vast majority of cases, never really materialized to judicial authorities.

No one, the economic world of our country first and foremost, intends to support those who do not respect human rights or the environment, an indefensible attitude. But it is precisely the excellent international reputation of Swiss companies (or companies based in Switzerland) that has amply demonstrated that this sensitivity is already very much felt and taken on board today. All those who betray this human and corporate seriousness have to sentence their own mistakes and have to respond according to the rules of the host country, as it is already the case today. We do not need other rules.

Those who operate internationally are currently, and already long ago, confronted with a whole series of complex and strict rules, both for their activities on a national and international level. An example: the gold refinery sector, which is very present in Ticino, often criticized and arbitrarily accused, is a sector that must submit to dozens of very strict rules and it is considered at the forefront of both environmental and social sustainability.

If, as provided in the text of the initiative, Swiss companies would be declared responsible not only for the conduct of the companies directly employed and controlled by them, but also for those companies that are associated with any business relationship, it is well understood how this constraint would make most of the collaborations impossible, as controls of this kind are absolutely impractical.

Another example: bear in mind that an iPhone has about 10’000 components and 40 raw materials, with suppliers for each category that can vary depending on the markets and therefore, often, even daily. The same characteristics also apply to many Swiss industrial products.

In turn, the suppliers have their own chains, even those often located in the international area.

The immense difficulty of the continuous search for feedback in the dense network of business contacts shows that the application of the initiative would only be an additional obstacle for Swiss companies (and only for our realities), not resolving or alleviating any problems related to the protection of human rights and the environment.

The counter-proposal of the Parliament, which would come into force in case of rejection of the initiative, constitutes in fact, a sufficient additional restrictive legal basis, which puts Switzerland ethically at the forefront of the world.

11 November 2020