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The Responsible Business Initiative Revisited: A New Era for Corporate Accountability?

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The Responsible Business Initiative Revisited: A New Era for Corporate Accountability?

​After being rejected at the ballot box back in 2020, Switzerland’s Responsible Business Initiative (RBI) is finally making a resurgence.

The original initiative, designed to improve Switzerland’s corporate accountability when operating abroad, was a proposal to tighten regulations on corporate social responsibility. Despite winning the popular vote, the RBI failed to gain the support of the cantonal majority, triggering the development of a (less stringent) counter-proposal that came into force as part of the Swiss Code of Obligations (CO) in November 2022.

Flash forward to today, and the RBI has made a return of sorts. 2024 marks the first year that Swiss public interest and FINMA-regulated firms are required to publish their non-financial reports – what does it all mean for the future of Swiss business?

Who is Obliged to Report?

Currently, public companies with at least 500 employees and a turnover of CHF 40 million in two consecutive financial years, or a balance sheet of more than CHF 20 million fall in scope of the non-financial reporting obligations.

As the Swiss Federal Council moves to better align their reporting standards with the EU’s Corporate Sustainability Directive, we expect the scope to expand to cover businesses with at least 250 employees in the coming year.

Oncoming Regulatory Pressures and the Rise of ESG

Whilst the full extent of the RBI remains to be seen (we expect more legislative updates in mid-2024), it’s clear that Swiss firms are facing growing regulatory pressure to operate responsibly. ESG (Environment, Social, and Governance) initiatives are gathering momentum, and those that act quickly stand to gain a strong foothold in a world that increasingly favours impact-driven brands.

The rise of the B Corp movement is a prime example – there are now over 130 B Corp accredited businesses representing 21 industries in Switzerland.

As a recently accredited B Corp ourselves, partnering with leaders who share our vision of a more equitable working future is a strategic imperative. We have a duty to support the communities we serve, and part of that is connecting our candidates with inclusive, growth-enabled opportunities they can thrive in.

Here at Trust in SODA, we‘ve seen the positive impact of corporate responsibility first-hand. We’ve had the privilege of working with a range of future-facing, purpose-driven brands across Switzerland, and we know that the key to operational resilience lies in sustainable workforce management, particularly in a fast-changing environment like technology. 

Attracting and Retaining Top Tech Talent

Switzerland is facing an unprecedented talent crunch, with widespread talent gaps threatening to stifle industry progress. These gaps are perhaps most prevalent in the tech space, where niche skill sets are intrinsic to the delivery of change and transformation projects (Switzerland already lags behind fellow leaders in terms of digitalisation and cloud transformation). Tech transformation promises a big boost to Switzerland’s economy, provided companies can bring the right talent on board.

Socially responsible businesses are enticing prospects for the future generation of tech talent. A genuine ESG commitment is a key differentiator, and when you’re in the market for top talent, you’ll need every differentiator you can get your hands on.

Transparent climate reporting can provide you with solid foundations to build an attractive employer brand. If businesses move quickly, they can leverage the evolving regulatory agenda to stand out from their competitors.

At Trust in SODA, our community-led recruitment approach goes beyond skills matching. Ready to build a brighter working future? Reach out to me directly to find out how we can help you build defensible, diverse workforces as you navigate an evolving regulatory landscape: Jack Heath.