Should Swiss laws be tougher on environmental and human rights violations?

Patrick Wellens (patrickwellens@hotmail.com) is currently working as a Global Compliance Business Partner for one of the divisions of a multinational pharma company in Zurich. He is also a Board member of Ethics and Compliance Switzerland, a nonprofit organization promoting the establishment and sharing of compliance best practices to Swiss-based companies.

Shaun McMillan (mcmillan.shaun@gmail.com) has certificates from the University of St. Gallen Department of Ethics in Corporate Social Responsibility and Cornell University in Servant Leadership. She brings her expertise from working in diverse industries driving strategy and business process solutions with global companies and start-ups.

Will an additional law need to be imposed on companies, or is self-regulation and voluntary measures to prevent environmental and human rights violations enough? In April 2015, a Swiss referendum was introduced to change the Federal Constitution and impose additional responsibilities and liabilities for Swiss-based companies.[1] As of May 2020, the constitution has not yet been amended.

Proponents of such an initiative[2] recognize that whereas most companies implement environmental, social, and governance standards in their business practices, some companies might put greater emphasis on profits over environmental and human rights. Because of the misalignments in companies’ self-regulation priorities, they believe that a change of law is now required for each company to be responsible and accountable for violations of environmental and human rights laws.

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