Oct. 2, 2023



🎤Participation in the🏛️Law Day🧮Normes de Responsabilité Sociale des Entreprises /RSE & Devoir de Vigilance (Corporate Social Responsibility Standards /CSR & Duty of Vigilance)

by Marie-Anne Frison-Roche

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► Full ReferenceM.-A. Frison-Roche, Participation à la Table ronde "Normes de Responsabilité Sociale des Entreprises (RSE & Devoir de Vigilance)" (Participation in the Round Table "Corporate Social Responsibility Standards (CSR & Duty of Vigilance)"), in Fribourg University, Journée du Droit, Fribourg University, Pérolles site, room C230, October 2, 2023.


🧮see the full programme of this event

🎥​watch the video of this event (in French)


🌐read the report written in French with photos, tags and links on LinkedIn and also with links to each the speech


► General presentation of the event : This conference, build around 4 presentations and a debate between the speakers and then with the audience, aimed at explaining and understanding this fundamental movement and the new texts that express it in Switzerland, even if it is French law, such as the so-called 'Vigilance' law of 2017 and the draft European CS3D directive, because on the one hand it is a movement that begins with legal technique and on the other hand the texts in question are extraterritorial in scope, if only because of the notion of 'value chain'. In the first part of this round table, and to set the scene, I will outline the origin and content of the French 'Vigilance' law, the way in which the draft directive draws heavily on it, its relationship with Compliance Law, of which it constitutes the 'advanced point', and the decisive role it gives to the courts, in the general movement of the jurisdictionalisation of compliance. The purpose of this is to allow the discussion to get underway.

🕴️Idris Abdelkhalek, PhD candidate and lawyer, introduced the speakers and led the debate between them and the audience. He took questions from the audience on the intensity of the obligation weighing on companies, in particular between civil liability and criminal liability, between the obligation of means and the obligation of result, and on the way in which the duty of vigilance is applied to specific sectors such as defence.


► Presentation of my speech : the subject of which was Presentation of French Vigilance law, European perspective and European Compliance System. My presentation was divided into four points. Firstly, I outlined the state of Law in France, in the novelty represented by the 2017 law known as the "Vigilance" law, whose principles are simple and strong, principles that are situated in the aims pursued, and the way in which this law inspires what is currently being negotiated: the CS3D Directive.

Secondly, I stressed the need for companies to master these often technically complicated corpus, especially if we take into account the link between Vigilance and the CSRD directive on sustainability reporting and extra-financial information. 

Thirdly, I have shown that an overall understanding can nevertheless be achieved, and that the technical nature of the 'tools' is better mastered if we place the duty of vigilance within Compliance Law, of which it constitutes the 'advanced point'. All of this anchors its legal normativity in the 'Monumental Goals' it serves, which in Europe are humanistic, since the aim is to protect, now but above all in the future because it is a branch of ex ante Law, the human beings involved in the systems (banking, finance, energy, digital, climate, etc.).

Fourthly, I emphasised that this understanding enables everyone to play their part: political and public authorities, businesses and stakeholders. Even more, and at the heart of the matter, the judge plays an essential role, even in countries with so-called 'continental' Law. I have used current cases as examples. This is just the beginning, and judges need to train, specialise and work in dialogue to achieve this.


► Presentation of the other speakers contributions :

🕴️Marion Paradas, Ambassador of France to Switzerland and Liechtenstein, opened the conference and gave a general presentation of the theme. Ambassador Marion Paradas presented the international challenge represented by Law, illustrated here by the duty of vigilance. She emphasised that this is a major issue, both now and in the future, for Swiss companies and French companies based in Switzerland, particularly as this duty extends throughout the "value chain" and in view of the CS3D directive, which will also have consequences for both.

🕴️Isabelle Chabloz Waidacher, Professor at the Faculty of Law in Fribourg and holder of the Chair of Economic Law at the University of Fribourg, gave a Presentation of Swiss Law. In particular, she emphasised the state of Swiss Law, which could have gone further than the 2017 French law known as the "Vigilance" law if the popular initiative reference had led to the adoption of a law, and which currently focuses more on information and transparency obligations, with CSR taking over from there. But she stresses that the reality of value chains will force Swiss companies to take into account the requirements of the European directive currently being adopted.

🕴️Renaud Roussel, Managing Director of Colas Switzerland, presented an entrepreneurial view of the subject. He began by outlining the concrete steps taken by his industrial group in Switzerland and around the world to implement its commitments to protect the environment, for example by ensuring the proper use of materials used in road construction. He also stressed the importance of human rights, particularly in labour relations, in the context of CSR and vigilance. He went on to point out that it was not always easy for a large company to meet its own requirements, or the requirements imposed on it by the law, because in the construction and public works sector in particular it is often small companies that are competing, competitors who do not bear the costs of such obligations.


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