The study. With the help of the Swiss market institute intervista, E4S researchers recruited 130 supporters of the initiative and 136 opponents for their study. All of them participated in both waves of the online survey. They indicated their perception of the legitimacy of the initiative and the arguments for and against the initiative.
The results. In general, the opinion on the legitimacy of the initiative has become more favourable during the pandemic. Co-author of the study, Anna Jasinenko notes:
"This finding indicates that corporate social and environmental demands for responsability have increased as a result of the crisis."
The positive effect was mainly due to changes in the attitudes of those who oppose the initiative.
On the contrary, the initial supporters of the initiative now have a less favourable perception of the initiative's legitimacy.
The negative effect was much smaller than the positive effect of the change in attitude of the opponents. Overall, opinions are less polarised than at the beginning of the pandemic.
The change in the opinions of those who oppose was reflected in the choice of arguments. During the pandemic, they chose far fewer negative arguments, such as the idea that the initiative would endanger the Swiss economy, than before the pandemic.
According to Anna Jasinenko:
"The pandemic highlighted a number of economic problems such as offshoring, inequality or meat production. As people have become more aware of these problems, they seem to be adopting values of solidarity."
To verify this, the researchers are planning a new phase of their investigation in the coming weeks.
The initiative. The Responsible Business Initiative is led by a coalition of 114 organisations from the fields of self-help (e.g. Bread for All), human rights (Amnesty International), environmental protection (Bruno Manser Fund), shareholder unions (Ethos), the rights of women as well as of churches, trade unions, and cooperatives. It concerns about 1500 multinational companies with their headquarters in Switzerland. SMEs with fewer than 250 employees are not included in its scope.
It demands that these companies ensure that the activities of their subsidiaries respect human rights and environmental standards. To ensure that non-compliance with these standards has consequences, victims could seek redress before the Swiss courts in a simplified civil procedure.
In her speech on 1 August, the Minister of Justice PLR Karin-Keller-Sutter spoke out against this initiative.
After much delay, the Federal Chambers have reached a counter-proposal which provides for the obligation of multinationals to report annually on their human rights policies and for a duty of care in relation to child labour and the exploitation of natural resources in countries at war.