For an economy that meets future needs and conserves resources

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© Caleb Roenigk: "Grow". www.flickr.com (CC BY 2.0).

A strong Swiss franc, a low interest environment, international competition and, on top of all that, a green economy – is that not asking too much? This is an entirely reasonable question. Nonetheless, it is important to explore the topic. The overuse of natural resources is a fact and the pressure for action in this area is increasing. Climate change is merely the clearest indicator of this. As this web portal aims to show, Switzerland is already active in this regard today. If business, science, society and the public sector join forces in the development of solutions, our country has the best possible chance of maintaining a leading position with an economy that meets future needs and conserves resources.

Adrian Aeschlimann, 11.08.2015

The business model is impressive and one that produces almost only winners: the Swiss company Ricoter which is based in Frauenfeld and Aarberg takes waste products from Swiss sugar factories, wood chips and bark from sawmills and garden compost and makes high-quality plant compost from them. Thanks to the use of this recycled soil, Ricoter does not need to import any peat from abroad. This means that climate-damaging CO2 remains stored in the soil and the sensitive species diversity in peat lands is conserved. Consumers can use the compost with a good conscience and without having to sacrifice on quality.

Conserving resources at global market level

Internationally active Swiss companies like ABB, Roche and Georg Fischer also bank on the win-win potential arising from combined economic and ecological benefits. Georg Fischer AG, which is based in Schaffhausen and is a global player in pipe and cast components production, has introduced processes for resource-efficient innovation in its development divisions. These processes help to ensure that sustainability and resource efficiency are already taken into account in the development of new products. This pays off economically and benefits the environment.

Other such win-win examples, in which both the environment and the companies benefit, are provided by the textiles concern Switcher, the SV-Group, Ernst Schweizer AG and the building materials recycling company Eberhard – all pioneers in their respective sectors.

Far-reaching consumer decisions

What we eat, where we live, how we get around and where we spend our holidays have impacts on our environment. Through our consumer decisions, we all have a direct influence on our individual footprint: for example, we can live in a well-insulated house close to their place of work and travel to work by bicycle or public transport. Or we can plan our food shopping so that as little food as possible is wasted and include vegetarian dishes in our menus. Finally, our choice of holiday destinations and means of transport used to reach them also have a major environmental impact. Flights have an extremely large footprint. This website provides tips on how individuals can calculate their footprint and act in a way that conserves resources.

Change can only be achieved through concerted effort.

Neither the states nor business, science nor individuals can steer our business and consumption habits in ways that respect the limits of nature. This requires a large number of instruments, the interplay of all sectors and forces, and constant dialogue among the different interest groups. In the Green Economy Action Plan of 8 March 2013, the Federal Council affirmed, among other things, the importance of the dialogue between the federal authorities, cantons, business, science and society. The aim here is to advance joint projects for ways of doing business and consuming that are efficient and conserve resources. The focus here is on voluntary initiatives. The dialogue essentially aims to contribute to reducing Switzerland’s footprint while maintaining or increasing competitiveness.

Just such a dialogue involving actors from the financial sector took place in the context of an inquiry initiated by the United Nations Environment Programme UNEP in the first half of 2015. A Swiss team consisting of representatives of the Swiss Bankers Association, the sectoral organisation Swiss Sustainable Finance, the relevant federal authorities and other financial market actors developed a Swiss response to the UNEP Inquiry and presented it in Bern on 6 May 2015. The aim of this dialogue is to steer investment funds from the financial sector to sustainable projects, and thus generate a win-win situation for the environment and economy.

A resource-sparing and, hence, green economy is already a reality in many places.

Innovative and successful companies – from start ups to SMEs and major international corporations – have recognised the potential and are exploiting it consistently. A change can also be observed in society: this is evidenced by initiatives like urban gardening, swap meets, repair cafés and direct supply networks from farmers to urban dwellers. These initiatives often involve as many setbacks as successes, however. Nevertheless, they are worth the effort. The web portal for an approach to business and consumption that is efficient and conserves resources aims to make these initiatives visible and to facilitate the exchange of information and opinions.

What is meant by a green economy?

The Federal Council sees a green economy as an economy in which business and consumption activities conserve resources, thus an economic approach that takes the scarcity of resources and regenerative capacity of renewable resources into account, improves resource efficiency and thus strengthens the performance of the economy and well-being as a whole. In this context, the term “economy” refers to companies but also households and the public sector. Accordingly this concept of the economy includes production, consumption and trade.

The green economy does not replace the concept of sustainable development. Instead, at the Rio+20 summit in 2012, the green economy was confirmed as an important instrument for implementing sustainable development. Accordingly, the green economy makes an important contribution to sustainable development.

More information: Green economy: Why?

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Last modification 15.09.2015

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