Sustainable development and Responsible Business Conduct

Switzerland's foreign economic policy contributes to sustainable development in Switzerland and abroad. It promotes sustainable trade and global standards for the protection of the environment, human rights and workers' rights. It also fosters responsible business conduct and supports selected developing and emerging countries in meeting sustainability goals and commitments.

Foreign economic policy serves to maintain and increase the social prosperity in Switzerland and abroad and makes an important contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals.

Owing to market failures and a lack of international coordination, environmental effects are barely reflected in the prices of goods and services, and this leads to a pollution of our planet and an overuse of natural resources. Switzerland is therefore working towards internalising external costs (e.g. CO2 prices). And Switzerland is committed to promoting international standards for the protection of the environment, human rights and workers' rights in order to reduce the cross-border effects of these external factors.

Multilateral engagement for sustainable foreign economic policy

In its foreign economic policy, Switzerland promotes international or multilateral approaches. Working as part of the WTO and other international organisations and bodies, it supports various initiatives aimed at fostering environmentally sustainable trade. At the World Bank, regional banks, the OECD and the Green Climate Fund, the country encourages discussions on reducing fossil fuel subsidies and the value of a circular economy. Switzerland also works to combat child and forced labour and to promote decent working conditions in its role as ILO member and Alliance 8.7 partner. Finally, by implementing sanctions imposed by the UN and its most important trading partners (e.g. the EU), Switzerland also helps to strengthen the protection of human rights.

Sustainability in free trade agreements

Switzerland includes binding sustainability provisions in its free trade agreements in order to establish sustainable bilateral economic relations. In doing so, the parties to the agreements undertake to align the economic objectives pursued by the free trade agreement with targets relating to environmental protection and labour rights. Switzerland monitors the implementation of sustainability provisions in free trade agreements and works systematically with its partner countries to address any problems in this area.

Responsible business conduct

International standards on corporate social responsibility (CSR) serve to strengthen sustainable value chains. Switzerland promotes the development of these standards and expects companies based or operating in the country to comply with them wherever they do business. Orientation is provided by the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, with the Federal Council's action plans on CSR and on business and human rights serving to implement this guidance. Due diligence and increased transparency from companies are essential. The National Contact Point for the OECD Guidelines promotes implementation of the international standards and provides a platform for dialogue in the event of conflict. Legally non-binding standards are supplemented by legal obligations, in particular those relating to public procurement, reporting on non-financial issues, and due diligence in the areas of conflict minerals and child labour.

Switzerland supports the implementation of three important conventions relating to integrity and the fight against corruption: the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions, the United Nations Convention against Corruption, and the instruments of the Council of Europe's Group of States against Corruption. Specifically, it ensures the enforcement of the legally binding provisions of these conventions and raises awareness about the fight against corruption among Swiss companies operating abroad, with a specific focus on SMEs.

Economic development cooperation with partner countries

SECO supports selected developing and emerging countries through economic development cooperation programmes. It advocates measures such as improved sustainability standards that take into account international agreements on the environment, climate and labour. It works closely with the private sector on this, thereby contributing to knowledge on both sides. In addition, SECO provides partner countries with technical assistance to support them in mitigating the impact of structural change.

Last modification 08.12.2021

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