Switzerland's leading supermarket chains, Coop and Migros, have been commended for promoting policies of sustainable development.
The Swiss firms were among ten international companies to receive awards on Saturday at a ceremony on the sidelines of the Earth Summit in Johannesburg.
The awards, jointly presented by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), were handed out to companies that are considered to have "pursued and achieved policies of sustainable development".
Coop - together with the Swiss-based cotton trading and distributing company, Remei - received an award for its line in organic cotton. Migros was commended for committing itself to a policy of purchasing palm oil from environmentally-friendly palm plantations, as well as ensuring that none of its products contain oil from unsustainable sources.
Focus on products
Palm oil - an ingredient commonly found in a range of comestible products such as margarine, soup and baked goods - is often grown on plantations sited on areas once occupied by forests.
Coop's "Naturaline" textile range, meanwhile, accounts for 35 per cent of the company's total cotton output.
On Saturday, a selection of organic cotton garments was put on display at a special fashion show hosted by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) at the Swiss information platform in Johannesburg.
Experts claim organic cotton can increase the income of farmers who cultivate it as well as reduce the need for harmful fertilisers and pesticides.
René Buholzer, a director of the Swiss Business Federation and member of the Swiss delegation in Johannesburg, said he was delighted that two Swiss companies had been chosen to receive the award.
"I am proud because I think this shows that Swiss business is at the forefront of sustainable development," he commented.
Buholzer dismissed criticism that the award ceremony was just an attempt on the part of big businesses to congratulate themselves.
"The involvement of UNEP in the judging," he told swissinfo, "makes it quite clear that these awards are much more than an excuse for business to pat itself on the back."
swissinfo, Ramsey Zarifeh, Johannesburg
Swiss supermarket chains Migros and Coop have received recognition for their policies of sustainable development at a ceremony on the sidelines of the Earth Summit in Johannesburg.
Coop received an award for its promotion of organic cotton, while Migros was commended for purchasing palm oil from environmentally-friendly palm plantations.
The awards ceremony comes one day before a major Business Day at the summit involving CEOs from some of the world's biggest multinational companies.
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