Sport Supply Chain Act: Battle of the Giants in Switzerland

16:05  28 november  2020
16:05  28 november  2020 Source:   sueddeutsche.de

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The Swiss decide on the proposal for one of the toughest supply chain laws in the world. Not only are many corporations against it - the government too.

Selten hat ein Referendum das Land so lange beschäftigt wie die Konzernverantwortungsinitiative. Die orangefarbenen Banner mit weißem Ja hängen seit mehr als vier Jahren an Schweizer Balkonen. © Manuel Geisser / Imago Rarely has a referendum preoccupied the country as long as the corporate responsibility initiative. The orange banners with a white Yes have been hanging on Swiss balconies for more than four years. Battle of the Giants in Switzerland

Is that still Switzerland? Corporations are insulted as "scoundrels", non-governmental organizations are denigrated as murderers, a minister has to justify herself for false statements, and a parliamentarian brings the trade minister from Burkina Faso to Bern to make it clear who is really on the side of the good guys.

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No doubt: The dispute over the so-called Corporate Responsibility Initiative will go down as one of the bitterest voting battles in Switzerland's history, as advocates and opponents have attacked each other so violently in recent months. The Swiss vote on Sunday.

If you support the proposed constitutional passage with a double majority of voters and the cantons, the country will soon have one of the toughest supply chain laws in the world. Internationally active companies based in Switzerland should therefore also respect human rights and international environmental standards abroad. So far, so undisputed, after all, Switzerland also stands behind the corresponding UN Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights .

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Supply Chain Management (SCM) refers to the wide range of activities that are required to control, plan and execute the flow of the product, starting from obtaining the raw materials and then producing it through distribution to the final customer which is performed in an efficient and cost-effective way.

Supply Chain . An entire system of producing and delivering a product or service, from sourcing the Mapping out a supply chain is one of the critical steps in performing an external analysisExternal The raw materials are then taken by a logistics provider to a supplier, which acts as the wholesaler.

The group responsibility initiative wants to cast this principle into binding national law: Firstly, companies should ensure that the subsidiaries and suppliers they control adhere to these rules. The corporations would be obliged to carry out a due diligence check.

Second, the initiative wants companies to be liable for human rights violations and environmental damage that they or their subsidiaries have committed abroad. People who can prove that they have been harmed by a Swiss company or one of its partners abroad could therefore sue before Swiss courts in the future.

130 human rights, development and environmental groups support the popular initiative

For more than four years the orange flags with the white yes have been fluttering on Swiss balconies: Few popular initiatives have occupied the country as long as this one. Several dozen human rights, development and environmental groups launched the project in 2015, and today the support association has grown to 130 organizations.

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Switzerland , officially the Swiss Confederation, is a country situated at the confluence of Western, Central, and Southern Europe. It is a federal republic composed of 26 cantons

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In addition, there are the left and green forces in parliament who are in favor of the initiative. On the other side: the Swiss government, the big business associations and the conservative parties. A kind of battle of the giants has gripped the country, and there is indeed something at stake.

The voting proposal, which is only a few paragraphs short, leaves a lot open. For example, it is not entirely clear whether the rules would apply to all companies in the country, i.e. not only the large multinationals but also the many small and medium-sized enterprises.

At this point, many opponents are bothered: They fear that the initiative would paralyze the Swiss economy with the extensive due diligence process and an alleged wave of lawsuits. Small companies in particular, so the argument goes, could hardly meet the requirements. The concrete form of the proposal would ultimately be a matter for Parliament, which would have to turn the initiative into a law if it were adopted.

So far, only a few countries have really catchy company rules for activities abroad. In France, for example, a law has been in force since 2017 that also obliges companies to carry out due diligence and makes them liable in the event of violations. In the UK, since 2015, larger companies have had to demonstrate what they are doing to combat human trafficking.

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There is no liability mechanism, instead there is a case law that has repeatedly punished companies for violations abroad. And in Germany the development and labor ministries are currently working on an supply chain law , which also provides for company liability, but so far the ministry of economics has been opposed to this point. Switzerland would not be alone if the initiative got through - but its set of rules would be among the strictest in the world.

And that with a considerable density of large corporations. Nestlé is based in Switzerland, as are the pharmaceutical giants Roche and Novartis, the agrochemicals group Syngenta, the building materials manufacturer Lafarge-Holcim and, last but not least, the high-turnover raw materials traders: Glencore, Cargill, Gunvor, Mercuria, Vitol. All of these companies would definitely be affected by the new regulation. And: Many of them have already been associated with problematic behavior abroad .

Given this phalanx of adversaries, it is remarkable that the initiative has a real chance. The latest polls see proponents at at least 51 percent. However: The no-camp is catching up. It will be tight on Sunday - the nerves are accordingly bare.

First the liberal-progressive movement "Operation Libero" received heavy criticism for calling all opponents of the duty of care for company as scoundrels . Then Justice Minister Karin Keller-Sutter was noticed with statements that experts later had to correct. Some lawyers therefore accused the government of for giving unfounded reasons for rejecting the initiative.

And finally the thing with the videos: Since October, drastic films of unclear origin have been circulating on the Internet, which show the proponents of the initiative as violent rioters and associate non-governmental organizations with executions and rape. Sunday will show who won this rough voting battle.

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