On November 29, 2020, Swiss voters opted for the introduction of EU-style ESG reporting and due diligence requirements and against the so-called Responsible Business Initiative. While the initiative would have added teeth to the civil liability regime for the violation of international human rights and environmental standards across the supply chain, the substantive requirements regarding ESG reporting and due diligence across the extended enterprise are not any lighter under the chosen approach.
We expect that affected companies will have to apply the new requirements in financial year 2023. Given that the new requirements mark a conceptual shift from soft law to hard law and thus new concepts and terminologies should be embedded into Enterprise Risk Frameworks and Compliance Programs, we advise that companies should start preparing already now. In doing so, they should take the wider international context and possible further developments in important foreign markets into consideration as the new ESG reporting and due diligence requirements only mark the first step on a longer journey.
This is particularly true for Swiss companies with operations in the EU where we expect broader requirements to receive the force of law in the coming years. Important measures will include the enhancement of the existing Compliance Program to address increasing expectations by stakeholders – and legal requirements – with respect to the management of ESG risks related to all business activities, including due diligence measures, with a specific focus on the supply chain.
This post originally appeared as a Baker McKenzie client alert. To view the full alert, please click here.