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Responsible business NGOs point the finger at multinationals for foreign abuses

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Strike action at a Bolivian mine formerly owned by Glencore, in 2012.

(Keystone)

A report by two NGOs has drawn up a list of all the rights and environmental abuses committed by Swiss multinationals abroad over the past five years – on average, one every month.

The analysis was published on Wednesday by the organisations Bread for All and Action de Carême, which collated all cases of violations documented by media or NGOs from 2012 to 2017.

The 64 violations of human or environmental norms were committed by 32 businesses across 14 different sectors, the groups said in a press statementexternal link (in French), with companies in the commodities sector performing worst, followed by the banking and food industries.

Five companies – Glencore, Nestlé, LafargeHolcim, Syngenta, and Credit Suisse – account for half of all cases, with Glencore alone responsible for 11.

Just over one-fifth of the incidents involved environmental pollution, the NGOs said, while the next most common type of infraction was flouting norms related to working conditions and security.

Yvan Maillard Ardenti, from Bread for All, told Swiss public radio RTS that in reality the figures could yet be higher. “There are numerous problems, deaths, or illnesses [in the places where these companies operate] that are not adequately documented and that simply remain unknown,” he said.

As a way of ensuring that multinationals observe standards in their foreign operations, the NGOs called once again for support for the so-called Responsible Business Initiative, which aims to inscribe such obligations in Swiss law.

The initiative is currently being discussed at parliamentary level; it is yet unclear whether it will come to public vote.


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