Corporate social responsibility (CSR) means that companies are responsible for the effects of their activities on society and the environment. The Swiss Confederation understands CSR to be a contribution to sustainable development made by companies.
CSR covers a wide range of aspects that must be taken into account when managing a company, including working conditions (including occupational health), human rights, environment, anti-corruption measures, fair competition, consumer interests, taxes, transparency, etc. To implement CSR, companies need to take stakeholder interests into account (e.g. shareholders, employees, consumers, local communities and NGOs).
CSR assumes compliance with laws and social partnerships. Society's expectations, which may go beyond legal obligations, are also to be considered. The Swiss Confederation expects companies based or operating in Switzerland to take responsibility for all of the activities they perform there or abroad in accordance with internationally recognised CSR standards and guidelines.
A consistent and broad implementation of CSR plays a key role in improving sustainable development and providing solutions to social challenges. It can also considerably improve companies’ competitive position.
Various terms are used in Switzerland to refer to CSR. Companies use e.g. corporate social responsibility (CSR), corporate responsibility (CR), responsible business conduct or corporate sustainability.
Position Paper and action Plan of the Federal Council
On 15 January 2020 the Federal Council adopted the revised CSR Action Plan 2020-2023. It thus confirms its commitment to responsible business conduct.
On 1 April 2015, the Swiss Federal Council adopted a Position paper and Action Plan on corporate social responsibility. It was prepared as part of an interdepartmental process under the aegis of SECO and based on a consultation between the various stakeholders. It has two main goals: 1. Informing companies and their stakeholders about the federal government’s goals and expectations as regards CSR; 2. Providing an overview of the government’s current and future CSR-related activities.
COVID-19 and Responsible Business Conduct
COVID-19 has an impact on companies and society, e.g. on the preservation of the health and livelihood. How can responsible corporate action contribute to overcoming the crisis in the short and long term? Good examples, such as increasing the resilience of supply chains or distributing the benefits of stimulus measures fairly, can be found in the OECD paper:
Digitalisation and responsible business conduct
The implications of digitalisation for responsible business conduct are manifold. For example, new digital tools can enable businesses to strengthen their efforts to act responsibly, in particular as it relates to responsible supply chain management (e.g. blockchain technology to analyze risks in the supply chain, machine learning). At the same time, the digital transformation can also lead to business causing or contributing to social and environmental harms in new ways (e.g. risk of discrimination in the use of artificial intelligence, and human rights risks associated with surveillance technology and the misuse of online content platforms). The OECD has published the following instruments in this respect:
If no English version exists, the French version will be linked.
Last modification 03.12.2020