Business and Human Rights

What is human rights due diligence all about? How do Swiss companies implement due diligence in accordance with the UN Guiding Principles? What have they learned, and what are the challenges? What regulatory developments are companies facing, and how can they best prepare?

In a series of four podcasts, experts from various Swiss companies and the Centre for Human Rights Studies of the University of Zürich discuss these and more questions.

Interview with Peter Nestor, Global Head of Human Rights, Novartis

How does Novartis implement human rights due diligence, and how can other companies follow suit?

Barbara Dubach interviews Peter Nestor, Global Head of Human Rights at Novartis, on how to implement human rights due diligence in a global pharmaceutical company.

Interview with Christine Kaufmann, President of the Centre for Human Rights Studies at the University of Zürich

Christine Kaufmann, what do companies need to know about the rising expectations and regulatory developments related to responsible business conduct?

Barbara Dubach interviews Prof. Dr. Christine Kaufmann, President of the Centre for Human Rights Studies of the University of Zürich, on regulatory developments in the field of responsible business conduct in Switzerland and abroad – opportunities and challenges for Swiss companies.

About the podcast “Implementing the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: voices from the fields”

The podcast series was initiated by the Swiss government and developed in cooperation with Focus Right and engageability.

It was developed for anyone who is interested in the practice of responsible business or is looking for ideas on how to introduce or further develop human rights due diligence in their company.

Sustainable  Economy

The National Research Programme “Sustainable Economy: resource-conserving, future-proof, innovative” (NFP 73) aims to develop scientific findings on a sustainable economy with careful use of natural resources, more welfare and increased competitiveness of Switzerland as a business location.

The first NFP 73 projects have completed their research. Starting in September 2022, podcasts will be published on a regular basis. With kind permission, these podcasts will now also be published at Business Sustainability Today.

“Producing more, but reducing the environmental footprint- digital innovations can make a big contribution here”, with Prof. Dr. Robert Finger (in German)

In Switzerland, there are nearly 49,000 registered farms with a total of over 1 million hectares of agricultural land. According to the Federal Office for the Environment, Swiss agriculture and waste treatment is responsible for 20% of all greenhouse gas emissions. One possibility for a more efficient, innovative and sustainable agriculture are so-called precision technologies. These can, for example, specify the amount of fertilizer so that only the exact amount that the field needs is applied. In this episode, Barbara Dubach talks to Robert Finger about challenges, opportunities and cooperation possibilities in relation to digital innovations in Swiss agriculture.

“Differentiation in trade, with a focus on production conditions and biodiversity- here Switzerland must proceed consistently”, with Dr. iur. Elisabeth Bürgi Bonanomi (in German)

We face the global challenge of designing a food system that both respects our planetary boundaries and provides a balanced and sufficient diet for all people.
The consequences of unsustainable production practices, market conditions and trade rules are high greenhouse gas emissions, dwindling agrobiodiversity, reduced soil fertility and poor nutrition. The global interconnectedness of our food system requires collective action to make it more sustainable. A hypothetical federal sustainable agricultural trade bill shows where we can start. In this episode, Barbara talks with legal scholar Elisabeth Bürgi Bonanomi about sustainable food and her proposed federal law.

“The closer our connection to the nature, the more likely we are to engage in actions that preserve and enhance the well-being of our planet,” with Prof. Dr. Sandor Czellar

Almost three planet Earth would be needed if everyone lived like the Swiss population. The imbalance between Switzerland’s higher ecological footprint and our planetary boundaries has existed for decades. Today, Switzerland consumes 2.8 times more environmental services and resources than are globally available per person, according to the Federal Statistical Office. In order to transition to a more sustainable Switzerland, our behavior needs to change. The environmental identity of individuals plays a significant role in that transition. In this episode Barbara Dubach speaks with Sandor Czellar about identity layers, motivational factors behind pro-environmental behavior and why it is key that we foster a close relationship with nature from early childhood onwards.

“Today, used equipment ends up in a drawer; there is great potential here for new business models,” with Dr. Yann Blumer and René Itten (in German)

Negative environmental impacts of mobile, Internet-enabled devices (cell phones, tablets, laptops), at 75%, occur predominantly during their manufacture. Longer use of mobile devices is therefore an important lever for reducing environmental impacts. Other important starting points are the design and production of the devices, as well as the business model which is still focused on increased sales. In this episode, Barbara Dubach talks with Yann Blumer and René Itten about the “right to repair”, what consumers should pay attention to when buying smartphones and why the secondary market has great potential.

“The forest faces great challenges; its various services must be made available in a sustainable manner”, with Prof. Dr. Roland Olschewski, Dr. Esther Thürig and Dr. Tobias Schulz (in German)

In Switzerland, around 1/3 of the country’s surface is covered with forest. This amounts to around 1.7 million hectares of forest. In addition to wood and energy production, the forest fulfills other important functions. For example, forests make a major contribution to biodiversity. Around 35% of all species in Switzerland are dependent on the forest. The forest also provides protection against natural hazards and is a recreational area for us humans. So the forest does a lot for us humans – researchers talk about so-called “forest ecosystem services”. Barbara Dubach discusses with Roland Olschewski, Esther Thürig and Tobias Schulz what mainstreaming means in this context, why the forest is facing major challenges and what solutions are available.

“Policy uncertainty hinders clean tech investments- so we cannot hesitate on taking action on climate policy anymore”, with Prof. Dr. Joëlle Noailly

In its 2022 special report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change declared that to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, the world needs to invest $2.3 Trillion every year in low carbon electricity technologies alone. However, Bloomberg’s new energy finance estimates that only 755 billion USD was invested globally in energy transition sectors in 2021. This gap hasn’t changed drastically yet. Barbara Dubach speaks with Dr. Joëlle Noailly on why that is the case and what can be done to close this financing gap.

“Promoting environmentally friendly behavior can have a positive impact on other areas,” with Prof. Dr. Renate Schubert (in German)

If we have saved energy in the winter, do we go on vacation as a reward? One of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals is to strive for sustainable consumption and production patterns by 2030. In this context, consumers should be better informed about sustainable behavior. The question here is which incentives lead to sustainable consumption behavior, how effective these measures are, and whether this then has a negative or positive impact on other areas. In this episode, Barbara Dubach talks to Renate Schubert.

“Public Procurement Can Promote Environmental and Social Sustainability,” with Prof. Dr. Peter Seele and Dr. Matthias Stürmer (in German)

Every year, over 40 billion Swiss francs are spent on public procurement at federal, cantonal and municipal level in Switzerland. Procurement bodies can already specify ecological and social requirements by means of suitable criteria. In the future, sustainability criteria are to be taken into account even more according to new international and national law and international treaties. In this podcast episode, Barbara Dubach talks to Peter Seele and Matthias Stürmer.

“All hospitals can optimize their operating processes in terms of sustainability,” with Matthias Stucki and Regula Keller (In German)

Healthcare has the fourth largest ecological footprint after food, mobility and housing. Nevertheless, there have hardly been any comprehensive sustainability analyses to date. Which processes in a hospital are particularly harmful to the environment and how can they be made more sustainable without sacrificing healthcare? Findings from this research project have already been put into practice and integrated into a parliamentary motion of the Grand Council of the Canton of Bern. Barbara Dubach talks to Matthias Stucki and Regula Keller about win-wins, vegetarian menus and optimized purchase intervals in hospitals.

“Investments in the processing of construction waste and secondary raw materials must be worthwhile for companies,” with Dr. Susanne Kytzia (In German)

Switzerland is not a country rich in raw materials. The most important raw materials extracted domestically are mineral building materials such as gravel. At the same time, large quantities of mineral raw materials are stored in our buildings, roads and other structures. Today, construction, waste and the excavated material from new buildings are responsible for the vast majority of waste. This raises the question of how to close the loop in the construction industry. Barbara Dubach talks to Susanne Kytzia about the interplay between business and politics, how construction waste can compete with primary raw materials, and an early recycling fee.

“A sustainable water supply needs decentralized and modular solutions”, with Prof. Dr. Bernhard Truffer and Dr. Eva Lieberherr (In German)

The comprehensive introduction of sustainable water supply often faces considerable regulatory and operational challenges. The extent to which such infrastructures can become part of future water supply and sanitation was examined with a view to settlement water and the strategic implications for Switzerland. Barbara Dubach talks to Bernhard Truffer and Eva Lieberherr about the costs of settlement construction, integrated approaches and the keyword blue economy.

“To achieve net zero by 2050, the transport sector must be transformed,” with Martin Peter and Vanessa Angst (In German)

Swiss transport is responsible for 40% of national CO2 emissions. In order to achieve Switzerland’s net zero target, the greenhouse gas emissions of the Swiss transport system must be substantially reduced. For this purpose, a basic distinction is made between the three approaches “improve”, “avoid”, and “shift”. Barbara Dubach talks to Martin Peter and Vanessa Angst about different scenarios for reducing greenhouse gases in transport, why e-mobility alone is not enough, and what we can do to achieve net zero by 2050.

“Sustainable housing should integrate the needs of tenants in its design”, with Prof. Dr. Claudia Binder and Dr. Anna Pagani

Housing is the second largest contributor to Swiss energy consumption and CO2 emissions. Since 1990, the population of Switzerland has grown by 23%, while living space has increased by 35%. The size of dwellings is a key factor in determining the consumption of resources and energy in housing. In this episode Barbara Dubach speaks with Claudia Binder and Anna Pagani about what’s behind this growing trend for bigger homes, and how we can make housing more environmentally sustainable without compromising our standard of living.

“Voluntary environmental initiatives by the private sector are paying off”, with Prof. Dr. Thomas Bernauer (In German)

Progress toward a sustainable economy requires major changes on both the producer and the consumer side. To what extent do voluntary environmental protection measures by companies support this change and how are they perceived by the Swiss population? Barbara Dubach talks to Thomas Bernauer about the positive effects of voluntary measures and what else one should strive for besides environmental protection measures. The Sustainable Economy series is a Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) podcast that provides access to the findings of the National Research Programme “Sustainable Economy: resource-efficient, sustainable, innovative” (NRP 73). In each episode, Barbara Dubach, Head of Knowledge Transfer for NRP 73, speaks with renowned researchers who have worked on one of 29 research projects. In less than 20 minutes, listeners thus receive evidence-based, actionable facts for the shift toward a sustainable economy.