«The End of the Beginning»
In 2011, the UN Human Rights Council unanimously adopted the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, thereby laying the foundation for a paradigm shift: Corporations have an independent responsibility to respect human rights. Expectations towards corporations are clearly set out in the UN Guiding Principles. The times of glossy magazines reporting on companies’ philanthropic projects in developing countries are over. Today, corporations must actively ensure that human rights are respected throughout their global business operations. Naïve assumptions such as no harm can come so long as intentions are good, or that shortcomings in the profit-orientated core business can be compensated with social projects, are overdue, as they simply do not meet the expectations of the international community. Today, human rights and sustainability must be consistently integrated into business practices and risks must be sought out proactively. This aim has not yet been reached. The UN Guiding Principles’ author, Professor John Ruggie, called the 2011 consensus «The End of the Beginning». Five years on, we are still at «the Beginning». Even though several states have published national action plans, most of them merely take stock of current policies. Yet, an increase in international dynamics is tangible. There is growing recognition of the fact that overarching principles need to be accompanied by clear requirements and binding laws to ensure
that all corporations assume their responsibility.
Switzerland published its National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights on 9. December 2016 in response to the parliamentary postulate 12.3503 by Alec von Graffenried. The Swiss Coalition for Corporate Justice, a coalition of several non-governmental organizations, followed the development of the action plan very closely and, when given the chance, contributed to it. This paper presents its analysis and comments.