Switzerland – SMEs

2 National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights 2020-23

2.2 Pillar 2: the corporate responsibility to respect human rights


2.2.1 Foundational principles

Guiding Principles 11 to 15

SMEs [Small and medium enterprises] are particularly important in Switzerland because they are a major part of the country’s economic fabric. Given their limited human resources and expertise on human rights, the management of potential human rights risks can pose a significant challenge for SMEs. Despite their good practices, they generally lack systemic responses to human rights-related issues. The concepts developed by international bodies like the OECD and UN must be presented in a way that takes into account the limited resources available to SMEs and the business environment in which they operate. SMEs are therefore encouraged to use the support measures provided by the federal government and umbrella associations.


Measure 24: Support for industry initiatives

The federal government will step up cooperation with industry initiatives, associations and chambers of commerce which promote the UN Guiding Principles, and support action taken by businesses to uphold human rights.48 This will involve identifying initiatives and actors which have the potential to substantially further the implementation of the UN Guiding Principles by businesses. Priority will be given to initiatives that contribute to due diligence training for business enterprises or that are developing practical and effective human rights tools for SMEs. All tools developed as part of initiatives supported and recognised under the NAP will be made available to the businesses online.


Measure 26: Promotion of best practices

The federal government intends to hold a Swiss Business and Human Rights Forum as part of its efforts to encourage and promote human rights best practices among businesses. The forum will provide stakeholders with a platform to discuss trends and challenges in implementing the UN Guiding Principles and foster dialogue and cooperation, particularly on the operational challenges faced by certain sectors. The forum will also help identify best practices for SMEs.


Measure 29: Public-private partnerships to promote respect for human rights in the value chain

To promote the implementation of labour rights and human rights by business enterprises, the federal government, together with the ILO, supports the Better Work programme for the textile industry and the Sustaining Competitive and Responsible Enterprises (SCORE) programme to support SMEs in creating decent working conditions. These projects are jointly run by the ILO, governments, the private sector and unions, and are focused on compliance with fundamental labour standards, including measures to combat child and forced labour. The tools developed by these programmes are shared with the private sector


Measure 30: Guides and tools to implement the UN Guiding Principles

Federal government will explore the possibility of translating some of these into the national languages to enable them to be adapted and implemented in Switzerland. The complex nature of these guides means that some companies, especially SMEs, may find it difficult to put them into practice. Easy-to-use online interactive tools could provide a starting point for SMEs. The Swiss government will develop instruments that enable SMEs to carry out risk assessments and identify measures. They also could provide the basis for an assessment of the action needed to improve human rights due diligence.