Time to act: Swiss population urges companies, policymakers, and consumers to make the country more sustainable

'Pulse of Switzerland'

When it comes to sustainability, companies, policymakers, and consumers are facing a dilemma. A recent population survey has found that the public expects all three groups to do more to make the country sustainable. However, it is more advantageous for each group to wait for the others to act. A possible way out of this dilemma is an action plan for companies and policymakers.

Media coverage reflects just how much sustainability has come to dominate public debate, from stories about climate activists gluing themselves to roads to reports of record high temperatures and coverage of Switzerland’s Solarexpress initiative to meet seasonal surges in energy demand with new Alpine solar generation plants. Sustainability has such a prominent media profile because it is an issue that affects every single group in society.

Many different stakeholder groups have a part to play in helping make the country more sustainable: consumers through their lifestyle and purchasing habits; companies through their business activities; policymakers through their measures; the media through their reporting; and non-profit organisations and non-governmental organisations (NPOs and NGOs) through their campaigning activities. But which of these groups has the greatest responsibility to make Switzerland more sustainable? And which specific measures are most appropriate and most effective? To explore public opinion in these areas, Deloitte Switzerland conducted a representative online survey of 1,900 individuals living in Switzerland.

When asked who should do most to make Switzerland more sustainable, most survey respondents cited companies, policymakers and consumers (see Chart 1). Two-thirds (66%) see companies as having the main responsibility, followed closely by policymakers (61%) and, lagging somewhat, consumers (53% of respondents). Around a quarter of respondents cited the media (28%) and NPOs/NGOs (25%).

These findings are broadly consistent across variables such as age, gender, and region. The outlier is the French-speaking part of Switzerland, where an above-average 72 per cent of people believe that companies and policymakers should do most. This suggests that the French-speaking cantons expect more of these stakeholders than those elsewhere in Switzerland.

Solving this dilemma does not require one of the three groups to act alone or before the others. The best way to achieve sustainable development is to have all stakeholders acting at the same time and in a coordinated way. Unlike consumers, companies and policymakers can take coordinated action, so the following action plan is particularly suitable for them, although it can of course also be applied to consumers.

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