Introduction: How SMEs can contribute to SDG 13

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Climate change poses a challenge to politics, the economy and society all over the world. Science proves that we are reaching the limits of nature and that all actors must act: from the state to individuals, from large companies to SMEs.

At international and national level, states have committed themselves to integrating climate protection measures into national policies, strategies and planning. According to the decision of the UN member states at the 21st Climate Conference in Paris in 2015, global warming should be kept below 2 degrees.

Switzerland’s objectives

Switzerland has also set itself ambitious goals for the next 30 years and would like to implement the 17 Sustainable Development Goals within the 2030 Agenda by the end of this decade. SDG 13 calls for “urgent action [zu] to combat climate change and its impacts”. Consequently, at the end of August 2019, the Federal Council decided to reduceCO2 emissions to zero by 2050. Some cities even want to reach the “net zero target” by 2030.

In addition, the Energy Strategy 2050 includes a gradual restructuring of the Swiss energy system. These include increasing Switzerland’s energy efficiency, adapting the electricity and power supply network, increasing the share of renewable energies in the energy mix and phasing out nuclear energy.

Challenges and opportunities

The implementation of the above-mentioned goals and measures presents challenges but also prospects for the private sector. Experts believe that achieving the SDGs will open up new market opportunities worldwide, as well as hundreds of millions of new jobs. One of the most promising areas of hope is the energy sector.

To act today and make these opportunities a reality, we need innovative solutions, economic incentives, appropriate framework conditions and best practice examples. And the time to act is now. This opinion is shared by Jacqueline Jakob, Managing Director of the Energy Agency for Industry (EnAW): “The earlier SMEs address the issue of energy, the better. Because companies that are striving for a stable future and want to secure their competitiveness would do well to make this topic the focus of their activities “.

The most important factors for climate protection

Switzerland is also affected by the changing climate. Summer heat is increasing, and precipitation has increased by up to 30 percent in the 20th century, depending on the region. So-called “extreme events” are triggered and intensified by the thawing of permafrost, glacier recession and floods. For example, heavier precipitation in the Alpine regions can lead to more floods and rockfalls. Biodiversity is also at risk: temperature changes have a major impact on the Swiss ecosystem, as they promote the spread of pests and pathogens.

On the part of industry, the main sources of greenhouse gas emissions are production, freight transport, energy reference areas, cattle, and the construction and cement industries. On the private side, it’s residential and passenger traffic. Switzerland’sCO2 footprint is far above the global average, with a consumption of around 14 tonnes ofCO2 per capita. According to the FOEN, 32 percent of emissions are caused by transport (excluding international air and sea transport), 24 percent by buildings, a further 24 percent by industry, and 19 percent by agriculture, waste treatment and synthetic gases. 1

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The potential of SMEs in the field of climate and energy

SMEs with industrial and building emissions in particular have enormous potential to reduce their own ecological footprint and cut energy costs through renovation and energy efficiency measures. But what exactly does energy efficiency mean? According to the EnAW, this term describes “the measure against which energy consumption can be compared independently of growth”. From 2013 to 2019, EnAW participants achieved savings in electricity and heat in the order of 3,578,159 megawatt hours. In addition, participating companies were able to reduce CO2 emissions by 76,796 tons in 2019 alone. In financial terms, the just over 4,000 participants saved around 344 million francs as a result and recovered around 340 million francs in levies.

How did these companies manage to do that? With simple but consistently implemented measures. The most frequently implemented measure is the conversion to LED technology. The participants were also successful in the areas of heating, ventilation and process heat and were able to achieve significant savings with their activities.

Although it is easiest to start with lighting, the area of process heat ultimately proves to be the most effective, as EnAW Managing Director Jacqueline Jakob also confirms. “The greatest potential is still to be found in process heat. This sector uses around 70 percent of the fuels in industry. You have to look at processes here and make them fit for the future.” This requires courage, but is worth it, emphasises Ms Jakob. Because it’s not just about a smaller footprint and financial aspects. According to observations by the EnAW, at least equally important for SMEs are a more positive working climate, product improvements and the strengthening of competitiveness.

Incentive for all

Business Sustainability Today, together with UBS and, has launched the “Sustainable Switzerland Campaign”. The campaign aims to motivate companies to implement the SDGs by providing inspiring solutions. In line with SDG 17 “Partnerships to achieve the goals”, Business Sustainability Today is positioning itself as a hub. For example, sustainable and innovative business models will also be presented by the Business Environment Award and Solar Impulse (1000 Solutions).

Information on the latest developments in research can be found on the web portals of the National Research Programmes “Energy Transition” (NRP 70), “Controlling Energy Consumption” (NRP 71) and “Sustainable Economy” (NRP 73). But in order to achieve the SDGs and Switzerland’s “net zero” goal, each and every individual is called upon. Accordingly, private individuals can find suggestions on the subject of energy efficiency in the domestic environment on, because “climate neutrality by 2050 is a challenge for society as a whole”, emphasises Ms Jakob. “That’s why it’s important to make everyone aware of this issue.”

1 Link: Federal Office for the Environment FOEN