BWI supports Swiss Responsible Business Initiative

The BWI global cement network meeting with its affiliates around the world focused on key issues, including the Swiss Responsible Business Initiative, which represents hope for workers globally. This virtual meeting, held on 14 October 2020, gathered around 40 participants.

After a general discussion on the cement situation, globally reflecting the presence of many Chinese multinationals among the world's top ten cement producers in addition to LafargeHolcim, Heidelbergcement, Votorantin and CRH, Laurent Matile, Senior Policy Advisor Business and Human rights at AllianceSud in Switzerland, explained the importance of the Swiss Responsible Business Initiative for our affiliates around the world. 

The Responsible Business Initiative requires that Swiss multinationals be held to respect human rights and the environment. In order for unscrupulous multinationals to also comply with the new law, violations must have consequences as Matile stressed: "Swiss multinationals must be held accountable for their human rights abuses and environmental destruction. If the initiative passes, they will have to take responsibility for the damage caused and pay compensation to the victims. Moreover, when a company can credibly demonstrate to the Court that it carried out adequate due diligence and that it took all necessary measures to prevent the violations, it will be exempted from liability. The initiative therefore has a preventive effect as it provides companies with an actual incentive to comply with their obligations.

"We remain confident that the Swiss people will make the right choice on 29 November, allowing the initiative to pass and put pressure on Swiss multinationals that do not respect their rights abroad by giving the possibility of dragging them before the Swiss courts," CSC BIE General Secretary Pierre Cuppens added: "This will also allow Switzerland and France, with its 2017 due diligence law similar to what the Swiss initiative calls for, to increase pressure on multinationals by joining forces on the issue of human rights and the environmental issue pending the draft European directive." 

At the European Union level, a new directive is expected in 2021, which, like the Swiss initiative, will include civil liability. The pandemic has not postponed its elaboration.

"The pandemic can only reinforce the need for multinationals to be strongly regulated. It is unacceptable that many multinationals take advantage of the crisis to increase their cement production at the expense of workers' rights," said Ambet Yuson, BWI General Secretary. A European study reveals that only one in three companies in the EU is currently showing “due diligence”.

  

In Great Britain, Canada and the Netherlands, victims can already apply for compensation in court as in the Swiss initiative. "BWI must therefore continue to encourage its affiliates to be at the front and centre of such initiatives to force multinationals internationally to comply with human rights and environmental protection." concludes Yuson.

Launched with a broad coalition of 130 human rights and environmental organisations, the initiative is now supported by a large number of business leaders and political representatives from all political parties. On 29 November 2020, the Swiss citizens will vote whether to adopt or reject a partial revision of the Constitution of Switzerland that aims to introduce a provision on responsible business.

Workers from LafargeHolcim all around the world, including from Algeria, Brasil, Belgium, Colombia, El Salvador, India, Lebanon, Mauritius, Jordan, Philippines, Switzerland and many more support the Swiss Responsible Initiative.


Watch the video message from the workers at Holcim Davao, Philippines: