More than 135,000 people demand clear rules for Swiss corporations

Photo: Philipp Rohrer/Alliance Sud

The "Corporate Justice" petition was signed by 135.285 people. This campaign urges the Federal Council of Switzerland and the Parliament to compel Swiss transnational corporations to respect human rights and the environment worldwide, reported Alliance Sud, focal point of Social Watch in the European country.

According to the campaign, subsidiaries of Swiss transnational companies such as Xstrata, Glencore, Syngenta, Nestlé, Danzer, Triumph and Holcim violate human rights or pollute the environment abroad, while there is no way for the parent companies to be held accountable.

Globalization has massively increased the power and influence of companies operating internationally. Yet there are no binding rules compelling them to comply with human rights and environmental standards. Such rules are urgently needed precisely for Switzerland, home to so many multinationals, warned Alliance Sud in its web site.

The "Corporate Justice" petition aims to close this gap. It was launched last November by a broad alliance of over 50 development and human rights organizations, environmental and women’s associations, trade unions and critical shareholder associations.

One year ago the UN Human Rights Council unanimously adopted the guiding principles drawn up by the UN Special Representative on Business and Human Rights, John Ruggie. These guidelines stress that all States have the duty to protect human rights, including against breaches committed by companies. They also underline the responsibility of those companies to respect human rights throughout the world.

States are now called upon to implement these principles. Whereas the European Union already asked its members last autumn to develop appropriate rules, nothing has happened in Switzerland so far.

Initiatives have therefore been tabled on the topic of the economy and human rights by several legislators.

While handing over the petition, the Director of the Swiss Section of Amnesty International, Manon Schick, pointed out that corporate self-regulation was by itself not enough. Only by combining it with binding rules would human rights abuses and environmental degradation effectively be prevented.

Peter Niggli, Director of Alliance Sud, the coalition of Swiss development organisations, highlighted the special responsibility borne by Switzerland as the home state of an above-average number of transnational enterprises. Many of those do business in sensitive fields. The lack of clear rules therefore poses an enormous risk to Switzerland's reputation.

Kaspar Schuler, Campaign Director for Greenpeace Switzerland, recalled that environmental pollution often goes hand-in-hand with human rights violations. The latest examples of Xstrata in Peru or Glencore in the Democratic Republic of the Congo have shown that environmental damage is invariably detrimental to the local population as well.

Even after the submission of the petition, the "Corporate Justice" coalition will continue to further the cause for binding rules for Swiss corporations. Worldwide.

Alliance Sud: