Switzerland: moving towards the adoption of a human rights due diligence law

Mandatory human rights due diligence could be introduced into Swiss law next month following a public vote. This could have significant implications for for all Swiss headquartered companies. Angela Floydd, Managing Director Europe at Laurence Simons Search, interviewed GoodCorporation’s Juliette Hérault about the forthcoming referendum and its implications.

Juliette and Angela discuss how the referendum came about and the Swiss system of direct democracy. They also explore what mandatory human rights due diligence means and how this looks set to become an essential component of effective human rights legislation.

The proposed new law is far-reaching and ambitious. If passed, it would put Switzerland at the forefront of global change on human rights legislation.

It would apply to companies of all sizes headquartered or incorporated in Switzerland. Specifically it would have an impact on SMEs and multinationals involved in high-risk sectors such as mining. Those companies trading in raw materials like copper, gold, diamonds or tropical wood will also be effected.

While the proposed requirements may seem challenging, human rights due diligence is increasingly regarded as essential. Human rights specialists confirm that only by fully understanding the risks can adverse impacts be effectively mitigated.

France has already introduced legislation with such a requirement with its Duty of Vigilance law. More countries and bodies look set to follow including Germany and the EU Commission. Existing legislation is likely to be tightened to include such a requirement as we have seen with the UK Government’s recent proposals on modern slavery reporting.

Juliette explores what best practice looks like when implementing effective human rights due diligence. Including some suggestions for managing this process during the pandemic. For companies with a complex supply chain, this can be a daunting task, so understanding all the salient human rights risks is critical.