Governance as the key: The Swiss formula for successfully shaping a sustainable economy

Governance as the key: The Swiss formula for successfully shaping a sustainable economy

In democratic societies, effective change is usually brought about by a trio of factors: firstly, incentives. Secondly, by means of successful practical examples. Thirdly, in the form of a legal framework. This also applies to the transformation towards a sustainable economy in Switzerland. This raises crucial questions for governance. How can the necessary economic and social changes be achieved? What roles should politics, legislation and the private sector play?

On behalf of NRP 73, five research projects have developed scientific answers to the challenges associated with governance and economic transformation.

In order for a benevolent, guiding hand to achieve its goal, complex interests must be balanced – prior to the resulting measures. Governance is the art of combining government guidelines with concrete use cases from the private sector that are perceived as motivating and positive by the general public. Only then can Switzerland’s transformation towards a sustainable economy succeed and remain successful.

No transformation without governance

Governance refers to the efficient regulation, management and control of change. Obviously, the starting point for this must be reliable facts and data. The research project “Sustainability Footprint in Switzerland” under the direction of Prof. Dr. Joseph Francois (World Trade Institute) provides these.

The projects “Legal framework conditions for a resource-efficient circular economy” (headed by Prof. Dr. Sebastian Heselhaus, University of Lucerne) and “Voluntary environmental initiatives by the private sector” (headed by Prof. Dr. Thomas Bernauer, ETH Zurich) are creating guidelines for the interaction between the state and society, state control measures and private sector initiatives.

Dr. iur. Elisabeth Bürgi Bonanomi and her team from the University of Bern will use the example of “Diversified food systems thanks to sustainable trade relations” to present what a concrete legislative proposal on sustainable agricultural trade could look like.

A sustainable economy stimulated by governance requires employees with the relevant skills. What this means for the Swiss labor market is the subject of the study “Labor market effects of a green economy” (Director: Prof. Dr. Rolf Weder, University of Basel).

Governance: mix of voluntary and state measures

The majority of the Swiss population recognizes and accepts the need to support the implementation of a sustainable economy through suitable methods.

On the one hand, state regulation of economic activity, combined with the normative control of global supply chains, can be used to efficiently promote a national environmental policy. On the other hand, a transformation is also taking place through environmental initiatives from the private sector and consumers.

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NRP 73 develops knowledge for a sustainable, resource-conserving economy in Switzerland that promotes prosperity and strengthens competitiveness.

The interplay between state and voluntary measures is of considerable importance here, as the NRP 73 research results show:

If synergies between the state and the private sector are recognized, the acceptance of voluntary environmental initiatives among the general public increases significantly.

Synergetically created, voluntary instruments give companies the opportunity to carry out their own business activities responsibly within a self-defined, integrative framework. In addition, the acceptance of voluntary measures increases if the state can impose sanctions if targets are not met.

Opportunities of a transformation for the labor market

The transformation to a green economy accelerated by governance is changing the Swiss labor market. New job profiles are in demand, without which it is not possible to implement positive changes.

The research results of NRP 73 show:

Occupations and skills with a scientific or technical background show the highest potential in terms of demand. On the other side of this scale – always with a view to the importance of economic transformation – are job profiles in the healthcare and art sectors.

Compared to other countries, Switzerland already has a relatively high proportion of employees with a “green” job profile. Nevertheless, this segment has an above-average percentage of vacancies. At the same time, unemployment is lower. Both are strong indicators of active demand on the part of companies.

Future environmental regulations initiated by the government will further increase the demand for “green professions” in Switzerland.

In summary

  • Effective changes towards a sustainable economy in Switzerland require a combination of economic incentives, successful practical examples and a legal framework.
  • Research projects under NRP 73 provide scientific answers to the challenges of transformation and governance.
  • In order to achieve a successful transformation towards sustainability, government guidelines and private initiatives must be combined. This is the only way that private sector measures will be perceived as desirable by the population.
  • The transformation is leading to increased demand for employees with certain skills, particularly in green professions.
  • The acceptance and success of environmental initiatives depend heavily on cooperation between the state and the private sector.
  • A shift towards a green economy leads to demand for new job profiles and specialized skills, especially in scientific and technical fields, which further increases the attractiveness of “green professions”.
This text was produced in cooperation with the National Research Program (NRP 73). The editorial responsibility for all text content lies with the authors.