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04.07.2019

The attitude of the Swiss population to the issue of corporate responsibility abroad

What are the public's views on Swiss-based companies’ corporate responsibility in other countries? Researchers at ETH Zurich have investigated this issue and found that there is support for the Responsible Business Initiative.

As part of the global discussion on implementation of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, Switzerland is facing the question of whether, and to what extent, companies should do more to protect people and the environment at sites abroad.

As part of the NRP 73 project “Voluntary corporate environmental initiatives”, Thomas Bernauer and his team at ETH Zurich carried out a representative survey of the Swiss population in November 2018. Participants were asked to reply to the question above in general terms and with specific reference to the Responsible Business Initiative.

The results of the survey show that the Swiss population is in favour of stricter legal requirements that impose a greater responsibility on Swiss-based companies that operate abroad. This is reflected in the high level of support for the Responsible Business Initiative in a hypothetical referendum. Respondents would also favour imposing a civil responsibility obligation on Swiss companies in cases where legislation is less strict. However, further probing showed that agreement levels dropped when respondents were presented with arguments against the initiative. This seems to indicate that the result of a vote would probably be quite a lot closer. Not least, the survey shows that in the public’s perception, substantial voluntary action by companies to protect people and the environment in other countries can go some way to replacing legislation.

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Prof. Dr. Thomas Bernauer Institute of Science, Technology and Policy, ETH Zürich Universitätsstrasse 41 8092 Zürich +41 44 632 6771 thbe0520@ethz.ch