Business and human rights

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Einblick in eine asiatische Smartphone-Fabrik

Global businesses – global responsibility

Forced relocations, inhumane working conditions, child labour - time and again, global businesses have violated human rights and damaged the environment. To counter this, the globalisation of the economy must be followed by a globalisation of responsibility.

Presently, companies that wish to reduce production costs, save taxes, and circumvent laws can simply move their activities to other countries. This is because the economy has globalised, whilst the legal system and laws still remain constrained at the national level. In addition, governments in developing countries are often not in a position to safeguard their inhabitants and environment against the activities of global businesses. The consequences are exploitative working conditions, the destruction of livelihoods, all at a great expense to the environment as the examples of Glencore, Apple, Addax or Vitol  demonstrate. Therefore, the countries in which these corporations are headquartered, such as Switzerland, are duty bound to act.

Background

Corporations are also responsible for human rights

Since 2011, there has been an international consensus that human rights are not the sole responsibility of nation states. Global corporations as well as their subsidiaries and suppliers must also respect and support human rights.

The United Nations Human Rights Council unanimously adopted the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights in 2011. This established global standards to prevent human rights violations and environmental pollution by corporations for the very first time. These guiding principles are the result of a long, multi-year process involving governments, economists, trade unions and non-governmental organisations. Their centrepiece is a legally binding due diligence requirement that obliges companies to identify human rights risks in their activities, and take measures to deter them. Corporations are further obliged to review the effectiveness of these measures and communicate this information publicly.

According to a study by Bread for all, until now, corporations in Switzerland have hardly implemented these principles if at all.

What Bread for all demands

Taking responsibility 

Bread for all is committed to ensuring that companies act responsibly towards the population and environment, wherever they may operate in the world. The basis for this would be binding human rights due diligence.

  • Global business – global responsibility
    Businesses must comply with human rights and environmental regulations in every country in which they work. They must also demand that suppliers and other business partners adhere to these same high standards.
  • Binding due diligence
    As one of the signatories to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights of 2011, Switzerland is obligated to accept its responsibilities by introducing a binding human rights due diligence for businesses. Companies can only prevent harm if they are aware of how their activities are impacting people and the environment in which they operate.
  • Justice for affected parties
    Communities that have had their fundamental rights violated by the activities of global corporations must have an opportunity to bring legal action against them and have access to remedy.

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Contact

ChPe
Chantal Peyer

Team leader
Ethical economy

021 614 77 10

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