Sustainable Switzerland: «Together we are making Switzerland more sustainable»
Under the umbrella of Sustainable Switzerland NZZ is launching a subject-specific dialogue platform. The aim is to make the sustainable development of the Swiss economy visible and to create added value for society as a whole.
Photo: Adobe Stock / Felix Brönnimann
Many people in Switzerland are already working towards this goal and increasing numbers of locally, nationally or globally active companies are joining this movement. They consciously act with sustainability in mind or are committing themselves to sustainability. But still far too little can be seen of the efforts already being made by private individuals, politicians, CEOs or research scientists in terms of overall sustainable development and what they can achieve together. There is a lack of networking platforms in this country – and this is precisely why NZZ is taking the initiative and launching Sustainable Switzerland. The programme will be rolled out in the course of the coming year in cooperation with high profile partners from business and science.
Sustainability not only embraces environmental protection or climate change, but goes far beyond these aspects. The term has a long history and its generally accepted definition is the one in what is often called the «Brundtland Report» of the United Nations published back in 1987: «Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without risking that future generations will not be able to meet their own needs.» The overall view is pivotal in this context (see chart): «Economic, social and ecological processes are interconnected and influence each other. The actions of public and private players must not be isolated and one-dimensional, but must take into account the interactions between the three dimensions of the economy, society and the environment,» is how the report summarised it at the time. But now up to five dimensions of sustainability are talked about and an integral approach is always important in this discussion.
The mission of Sustainable Switzerland summarises this challenge as follows: «By working jointly with strong companies as the driving force, we are creating a sustainable future for Switzerland, our world and our people which is rational and liberal.» There is a consensus that the greatest leverage for sustainable development lies with the economy. Felix Graf, CEO of the NZZ, explains: «We want to reach as many people in Switzerland as possible. They should be aware of everything that is being done to achieve sustainability, what the economy is doing and the direction in which it is moving. And we want to encourage them to play an active part.» Because: «Together we are making Switzerland more sustainable.»
What can this look like in concrete terms? «With our platform, we want to create real added value for businesses and society as a whole – a thematic world where stakeholders can come together to inform each other and exchange ideas about the best solutions for the future,» says Corine Blesi, Managing Director of the NZZ Connect business unit, the organiser of the annual Swiss Economic Forum (SEF) as well as other events. Working sustainably means taking a responsible view of the effects of one’s own business activities and all associated risks, and acting with foresight for the benefit of employees, the general public and the environment. «This holistic strategic approach generates entrepreneurial added value. We want to take Switzerland one step further in all the facets of this important topic for the future.»
Various subject-specific dialogue channels are to be created under the umbrella of Sustainable Switzerland over the next few years. An on-line portal for news and information, publications in newspaper and magazine format, a sustainability festival, community programmes and a certification programme with a sustainability label for SMEs are core elements of the NZZ initiative. The platform is now under construction. According to Corine Blesi, talks are currently being held with possible founding partners. All stakeholders could become directly involved and – by making their corporate activities more sustainable – at the same time make their contribution to a sustainable Switzerland.
The first Swiss Sustainability Forum in Bern is intended to use the publicity created by the event to be a wake-up call and inspire people. The Sustainability Festival, lasting several days, is planned for autumn 2022 and will aim to make key thematic aspects of the economy, society and the environment accessible to all-comers. The Swiss Sustainability Forum is organised by NZZ Connect. The NZZ company specialist already organises two national events focussing on sustainability: Circular Economy Entrepreneurs (CE2), a conference promoting circular economies and sustainable entrepreneurship, and the Impact Finance Forum (IFF) Conference which bridges the gap between the financial industry and sustainable business.
The binding force for the commitment of Sustainable Switzerland is the 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations. These Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) should ideally be achieved by 2030. Switzerland has also adopted this commitment. «This means that all UN member states are equally called upon to solve the world’s pressing challenges together», as the Confederation emphasises in the context of its 2030 Agenda.
The business community has a key role to play in achieving the goals in Switzerland. In a recent study by the Swiss Economic Forum and the Kalaidos University of Applied Sciences, 422 managers were asked which SDGs (sustainable development goals) play a major role in their corporate strategy. The topics that receive the most attention are gender equality, building a resilient, sustainable industry and infrastructure, and education. These development goals were each defined as strategic priorities by more than 50% of the participants. The topics of decent working conditions, health and climate protection were also high among respondents’ priorities.
With Agenda 2030 in mind, initiatives such as Sustainable Switzerland are an important step for Switzerland on the road to achieving the SDGs – and thus to the attainment of a future that also leaves room to manoeuvre for future generations. The paradigm shift that is needed can be achieved if the worlds of business, politics and science and the general public communicate and find solutions. Informing people to set a long-term course for sustainable development. Because: «Together we are making Switzerland more sustainable.»