Over the last few years, corporate social responsibility (CSR) has gained importance on the international stage and undergone conceptual changes. New tools have been developed and existing ones updated and enhanced. After the ISO 26000 Guidance on Social Responsibility was published in 2010, the updated OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises on Responsible Business Conduct and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights were released in 2011. The UN Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which appeared in 2015, also emphasise the contribution the private sector can make to sustainable development.
OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises on Responsible Business Conduct
The OECD Guidelines constitute comprehensive recommendations for conduct provided by governments to multinational enterprises. They help enterprises exercise their responsibility and can be applied wherever the enterprises operate. The OECD guidelines are not legally binding but the National Contact Points (NCPs) of the signatory states support their implementation. Any suspected breaches against the OECD guidelines can be reported to the NCPs, which offer a platform for dialogue or a mediation procedure. General and sector-specific guidelines (covering minerals, agriculture, textiles, finance, etc.) support implementation of the OECD guidelines and enterprises’ due diligence in particular.
UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights
The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights include 31 principles and are based on three pillars:
- State duty: Countries must take the necessary measures (e.g. laws, incentives and awareness raising) to protect the population from human rights abuses, including by private agents (enterprises included).
- Corporate responsibility: Enterprises must respect human rights and to this end must exercise due diligence in proportion to the circumstances.
- Access to remedy: Countries and enterprises have a responsibility to facilitate effective remediation for those affected by means of judicial and extrajudicial measures.
The principles can be applied to all countries and enterprises regardless of their size, sector, location or ownership and organisational structures. However, they do not constitute international obligations. The National Report and Action Plan on Business and Human Rights demonstrates how the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights can be implemented in Switzerland.
UN Global Compact
Thanks to its 10 universal principles on human rights, working standards, the environment and combating corruption, the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC) offers an introduction to CSR issues and serves as a networking and learning platform. With more than 10,000 participating enterprises and organisations, it is now the biggest network in the world for responsible business conduct. The UNGC is a multi-stakeholder platform whose primary goal is to facilitate dialogue between the individual interest groups working together to implement the principles. Participating enterprises are obliged to publish a report on the progress they have made in implementing the principles each year. The federal government supports the Global Compact Network Switzerland by means of a partnership.
ISO 26000 Guidance on Social Responsibility
The ISO 26000 guidance on social responsibility was elaborated as part of a broad-based international process between industry and developing countries, enterprises, and workers’, consumers’ and non-governmental organisations. It helps enterprises and organisations take a strategic approach to their business processes in accordance with responsible business conduct principles. Although ISO 26000 provides a comprehensive take on social responsibility, it is not certifiable like other ISO standards.
Global Reporting Initiative
The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) provides a globally applicable framework for drawing up sustainability reports in accordance with internationally recognised criteria. The reporting framework covers principles and indicators for enterprises and other organisations to measure their economic, environmental and social performance. At the same time, a report oriented towards the GRI also provides interest groups with a transparent representation of the relevant sustainability aspects of an enterprise.
2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development of the UN
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (UN development goals) was developed by the international community in 2015 to contribute to global development, promote human well-being and to protect the environment. The 17 Sustainable Development Goals and their 169 targets form a core element of this agenda. Switzerland’s contribution to the 2030 Agenda is outlined in the Sustainable Development Strategy.
The EU Strategy (2011–14) for Corporate Social Responsibility describes the EU’s strategic approach and the specific measures it has in place regarding CSR. In the area of sustainability reporting, the EU has revised the existing directive. In addition, a proposal from the EU Commission for a new directive on due diligence obligations has been available since February 2022. A report by the Federal Office of Justice shows how Swiss law differs from the EU regulations. In addition, the Federal Council decided on 2 December 2022 on the further course of action with regard to regulation in Switzerland.
Due to the Supply Chain Act (PDF, 221 kB, 29.09.2023) all companies, including Swiss companies with headquarters or a location in Germany and at least 3000 employees, must implement human rights and environmental due diligence in their supply chains since 1 January, 2023. From 1 January 2024, the law will apply to companies with at least 1000 employees in Germany. Swiss companies without a location in Germany must also bear in mind that when supplying a company in Germany affected by the act they will be ask by its customer to comply with the new obligations.