ZURICH — A proposal in Switzerland to make multinational firms headquartered within the nation liable for human rights violations and environmental damage dedicated by their subsidiaries overseas failed in a referendum on Sunday.

The initiative received a slim majority amongst voters, with 50.7 p.c backing it, however failed as a result of a majority of the nation’s cantons, or states, rejected it. Below the Swiss system, as a result of the initiative proposed a constitutional modification, it wanted the backing of each a well-liked majority and a majority of cantons to go.

The initiative, promoted by a coalition of over 130 civil society organizations, had confronted robust opposition from the enterprise sector and the federal government, which feared that the principles would harm Swiss firms amid an financial slowdown linked to the coronavirus pandemic.

With the initiative rejected, milder laws put ahead by the federal government is anticipated to return into impact. That laws additionally consists of due diligence and reporting necessities, however stops in need of holding Swiss dad or mum firms accountable for rights violations and environmental harm that happen overseas.

The legislation, which is anticipated to return into drive inside the subsequent two years, is weaker than these in another European nations. Britain and France are among the many nations which have handed legal responsibility legal guidelines linked to company social duty.

The vote on Sunday had been the supply of a lot debate in Switzerland, and was the most expensive within the nation’s historical past, in accordance with the Swiss newspaper Tages-Anzeiger.

The initiative’s backers had focused the commodity buying and selling trade as a selected space of concern. The sector has a powerful presence in Switzerland, using 35,000 individuals.

However because the day of the referendum grew nearer, the enterprise sector intensified its opposition to the proposed laws. Quite a lot of executives at multinationals spoke out in opposition to it, and firms took out full-page ads in Swiss newspapers urging individuals to reject the proposal.

The response from the enterprise sector in Switzerland was largely considered one of reduction. Roberto Colonnello, who led the “no” marketing campaign for the Swiss enterprise federation, Economiesuisse, mentioned that, “Switzerland has spoken out in opposition to the overregulation of all our firms.”

He mentioned that the milder authorities proposal would go far sufficient and that it included “probably the most superior devices in opposition to baby labor and the financing of battle minerals.”

“It additionally offers firms with the urgently wanted authorized certainty,” Mr. Colonnello added, referring to the end result.

Andreas Missbach, director of Public Eye, one of many organizations behind the initiative, mentioned it was a disgrace that the more durable proposals didn’t go, contemplating {that a} majority of Swiss voters had been in favor.

He added that the government-backed laws was inadequate. “The counterproposal doesn’t actually carry us something apart from extra shiny company sustainability reviews,” he mentioned. “The issues are nonetheless right here; they don’t seem to be going away.”

Individually on Sunday, an initiative on the financing of weapon producers additionally failed. The proposal would have prevented Swiss establishments, together with the central financial institution, from investing in firms producing greater than 5 p.c of their income from the manufacturing of struggle supplies.