Switzerland refuses to demand greater transparency from companies on human rights


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Switzerland has held two referendums this Sunday. One of them asked about the obligation of Swiss companies and their subsidiaries to verify whether their activities abroad respect human rights and international environmental standards. The other debated whether to stop public funding of companies producing war material. In both plebiscites the “no” has won, although with an important nuance.

In reality, the majority of voters chose to demand that companies show their actions regarding human rights. In fact, they represent 50.7% compared to 49.3% opposed to the measure. However, national referendums also take into account the number of cantons, which are the states that make up the Alpine country, under the federal system. And in this case, twelve have reflected their rejection against eight in favor of the measure. Therefore, as one of the two requirements is not met, the proposal cannot go ahead. According to the Swiss press, it is the first time since 1955 that the popular vote has been invalidated by the cantonal.

The initiative is created by 130 non-governmental organizations. His followers have made an intense campaign throughout Switzerland, hanging flags in favor of it, a trend that has even been imitated by some churches. Its slogan reads “Responsible multinational initiative, yes” in the official languages ​​of the country.

Around the proposal, the left-right axis clearly reflects what the most common profiles of each ideology think. More than 90% of the followers of the main progressive parties are in favor of the measure, compared to, more or less, 60% of voters from conservative formations opposed to it.

Sex and purchasing power are also key to understanding the differences in criteria. The female vote and that of the lower classes is very in favor of “yes.” In fact, more than 70% of Swiss women are in favor, compared to 55% of men. With regard to the territorial factor, the German-speaking cantons are more reluctant to accept the text, compared to the French and Italian-speaking cantons, which mostly prefer it.

For its part, the referendum on the end of public financing for arms manufacturing companies has had the same result both in number of inhabitants and cantons: opposition (57.5% compared to 42.5% of voters, and seventeen states against three). The companies involved in this controversial issue dedicate most of their production to supplying the country’s army. Its exports go mainly to other European nations, and globally represent less than 1% of the creation of war material.

In this matter, there is a phenomenon similar to that of the initiation that demands more ethical responsibilities from companies, since the profiles according to the option are the same. Left-wing voters identify around 90% with cutting funding to the war industry. In this case, an abyss separates them from right-wing voters, whose opposition to the proposal is around 70%.

In the area of ​​sex, 63% of women and 44% of men are in favor of the text. And with exceptions, low-income citizens have more than 50% support, as opposed to almost the same percentage of the wealthiest who oppose the measure. Unlike the other proposal, linguistic and territorial factors do not significantly determine the balance.

Rejection from the institutions

Both the Swiss Government and Parliament recommended rejecting both initiatives. They argued that passing these could be detrimental to all Swiss companies, even those that have not had any deplorable behavior. Both consultations have had a low participation, of 46%, a figure similar to the average of others held in the Alpine country.

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