.sustainability Switzerland: it’s time for companies to take a stand and use their voice

Givaudan, Nestlé, and Swisscom lead the way in Switzerland, showcasing strong sustainability commitments. However, many Swiss companies are still stuck in a compliance approach to sustainability, focusing on regulation and speaking a technical language suitable mostly for investors and analysts. Notably, only 20% of CEOs actively take a stand on sustainability, highlighting a significant gap in leadership involvement.

Drawing on over 15 years of experience measuring the sustainability communications of Swiss companies, our new .sustainability research takes a fresh look at how these organizations are talking about their social and environmental strategies and performance, based on a sample of 57 of Switzerland’s largest listed and non-listed companies. Talk of sustainability and ESG has exploded in the last few years, but where is the visible proof of the courage, determination, and hard work that companies are investing to drive transformation and make meaningful change?

Bringing sustainability to your stakeholders

Amid the widespread “noise” about sustainability, the most aware and responsible companies are questioning how to effectively communicate their achievements, distinguish themselves, and use appropriate language to engage and convince stakeholders.

What we are discussing is not an abstract concept but an operational tool: it’s essential to craft a communication strategy that integrates all communication channels into a single interconnected ecosystem, with complementary elements that support and enhance each other.

To be engaging and achieve results, sustainability communications must go beyond reporting. Reports are necessary, of course, but from a communications perspective, they are inherently limited in their scope and only reach certain stakeholders.

4 Drivers of effective communications

Our .sustainability research employs a tried-and-tested model of over 100 analysis criteria to answer these questions and assess how companies convey their sustainability efforts across their digital channels. The results are presented on a rating scale from one star (minimum) to five (max).

The assessment is based on four key drivers of successful sustainability communications:

  • Strategy & Integration
  • Topics & Journey
  • Leadership & Advocacy
  • Narration & Storytelling

Switzerland 2023

Get in touch

For further information on the research, to receive your company’s highlights and to order an ad-hoc report, please contact:

How did swiss companies perform?

A group of major companies led by Givaudan, Nestlé, and Swisscom are showing the way, taking a clear stand on the importance of sustainability to their businesses and products, and then unpacking what that commitment means in practice, topic by topic – from water impacts to human rights, from product recycling to climate change.

Beyond these top performers, however, our analysis suggests many companies are stuck in a compliance approach to sustainability, focusing on the wave of regulation that has emerged of late and speaking a technical language suitable mostly for investors and analysts.

But now that ESG reporting has become mandatory in Switzerland, with large businesses obliged to report publicly on environmental, social, labour, human rights, and anti-corruption matters, stakeholders and the wider public are interested in hearing how companies are changing their practices to become more sustainable in a transparent and verifiable way.

The findings from .sustainability show there is much work to be done here:

  1. There is a credibility gap on key issues: 81% of Swiss companies present a strategic commitment to climate change on their company website but only half of them back this up by presenting specific targets and actions, while for diversity, equity & inclusion and gap is even wider.
  2. Companies fall short particularly in terms of leadership and advocacy. There is a noticeable absence of a strong, guiding voice that takes bold positions, drives strategic choices, and inspires a vision for the future, even when tackling critical issues like climate change or diversity and inclusion. Only a quarter of Swiss companies give voice to their senior management on sustainability initiatives and just 21% of CEOs actively lead as ambassadors for sustainability on LinkedIn.
  3. Most companies fail to reach a broader audience through storytelling or use images, videos, podcasts, etc. to show what their sustainability programme looks like in practice: only 37% leverage storytelling to effectively showcase their initiatives and demonstrate concretely how they address the issues that matter.

“A company that wants to be considered relevant and credible must commit to building an integrated system of communication tools.”