16 October 2023

ESG Switzerland: New legal status «sustainable enterprise»

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The aim of a politically broad-based parliamentary initiative is to amend Swiss legislation to allow the introduction of a voluntary legal status of a «Sustainable Enterprise».

What reliable standards should entrepreneurs, investors, consumers and public institutions use to select sustainable business partners? There is a jungle of (private) standards and certificates. But there is no official, audited ESG standard for sustainable companies in Switzerland.

From the companies' perspective, there is also a lack of a legal framework that makes their commitment to sustainability clear and visible. Many Swiss companies are already operating sustainably or are on their way to doing so. However, without a clear legal framework, their efforts often go unnoticed and are not sufficiently promoted.

A parliamentary initiative now aims to close this gap by amending company law (Swiss Code of Obligations, Accounting Law, Commercial Register Ordinance, Implementing Ordinance). This is an idea that has already been implemented in France, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States. In the future, Swiss companies - regardless of their legal form - should be able to present themselves as official «sustainable companies» on a voluntary basis. Companies seeking this legal status will have to meet various requirements to be defined by the legislator (corporate responsibility/governance and sustainability requirements), be audited by an independent auditor, and have ESG reporting obligations.

The Alliance for Sustainable Business is behind the parliamentary initiative.