Mr Marty, at present, multinational companies based in Switzerland rely on individual responsibility and voluntary measures to protect people and the environment. Why is that not enough?

Dick Marty: Self-regulation is not a solution. For companies that already respect the fundamental rights of the local population – certainly a majority – it is useless. For those who are motivated by maximum short-term profit, voluntary measures are completely ineffective.

How does Switzerland compare internationally?

The UN, the OECD and the Council of Europe have called on states to establish standards that enshrine the principle of multinational liability and the right of injured parties to compensation. Switzerland has the highest concentration of multinational headquarters, so we are obliged to act in the interests of our country. Other countries have already done so, for example France and America.

In the Swiss business community there is no consensus on whether or not to support the initiative. Why is that?

Typical Swiss companies such as Migros, Coop or Manor have supported a counter-project similar to the initiative. It is the multinationals with an absolute Swiss minority shareholding that do not want regulations. The influential shareholders of these companies often include hedge funds.

Why is the Federal Council’s counter-proposal, which does not provide for a liability regime, insufficient?

This proposed solution is a farce. It means nothing except that companies can write whatever they want in their annual report. We are seeing the same scenario as with money laundering, where it was left to the banks to find a solution. It took a whole series of scandals before a law was finally passed.

Support the Responsible Business Initiative!

Dick Marty, former public prosecutor of the Canton of Ticino and member of the Council of States

“Switzerland has the highest concentration of multinational headquarters, so we are obliged to act in the interest of our country.”