Foreign ministry drops Glencore and other controversial sponsors

Demonstrators at a union protest outside Glencore's annual general meeting in Zug, Switzerland, in 2018 © Keystone / Alexandra Wey

The Swiss foreign ministry has ended sponsorship agreements with dozens of companies including mining and trading giant Glencore because of image concerns.

This content was published on April 25, 2021 - 17:08

“Mining is currently so controversial that a partnership with Glencore cannot generate a positive image transfer,” Nicolas Bideau, head of Presence Switzerland, a foreign ministry unit that promotes Swiss interests, told the NZZ am SonntagExternal link.

The ministry has implemented stricter guidelines for promoting companies abroad after it was criticised in 2019 for planning to include tobacco product producer Philip Morris as a Swiss pavilion sponsor at the World Exhibition in Dubai.

Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis also felt the heat in 2019 after visiting and praising a Glencore-run copper mine in Zambia.

Glencore, based in Baar in central Switzerland, said it was surprised by the decision.

“In 2017 and 2018 we worked together with the Swiss government, commodity companies and non-governmental organisations on the Swiss Guidance for the Implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights in the Extractive Sector,” the company’s spokesman said in a statement to Bloomberg News.

In the comparative analysis of the Responsible Mining Foundation, “Glencore achieved very good results in March 2020 with regard to due diligence and transparency in commodity trading”, he said.

Weapons and chocolate

The government has cut its list of private sector partners from 83 last year to 36, the NZZ am Sonntag reported.

Other companies affected by the stricter sponsorship practices include arms manufacturer – and official supplier to the Swiss army – Ruag and chocolate maker Läderach, whose chief executive is an evangelical Christian and opposes same-sex marriage and a woman’s right to have an abortion. Swiss International Air Lines (SWISS) dropped Läderach last year.

Two years ago Läderach sponsored a “Soirée Suisse” at the Swiss embassy in Paris.

“If Switzerland’s image suffers, its prosperity also suffers,” Bideau said.

The lead of this article was updated on June 15, 2021. The name of a company mentioned in the original version has been withdrawn.

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