Children walk over minefields, families are affected by river pollution or are driven off their property. The traces left by some multinational companies in countries like Peru, Colombia and India are as diverse as they are devastating. Many of these companies have their headquarters in Switzerland.

Good will is no longer enough

SWISSAID supports the Organising Committee of the Responsible Business Initiative in enforcing laws that encourage such companies to act responsibly. The protection of human rights and the environment can no longer depend solely on the good will of business leaders. Many countries have already passed binding laws. In France, Canada and the UK, for example, legal proceedings are under way against multinational companies for serious human rights violations by their foreign subsidiaries. The initiative calls for a civil liability mechanism to be introduced in Switzerland as well. In this way, a multinational company based in Switzerland that violates human rights or harms the environment could be held liable – unless it can prove that it has fulfilled its duty of care and taken all necessary measures to avoid negative consequences.

Devastating effects

SWISSAID and its local partners are daily witnesses to the devastating impact that companies such as Glencore or Syngenta leave in the SWISSAID project countries. As one of the richest countries in the world, it is high time for Switzerland to assume its share of responsibility.