A “green tsunami” engulfed Switzerland on the eve of the parliamentary electionsexternal link last Sunday but the verdict is still out on what it means for business.


The Green Party took a record number of seats in the House.

(Keystone / Carlos Barroso)

Green, female and progressive were the headlines from the October 20 elections. The Green partyexternal link swooped up a record number of seats in the House of Representatives and the share of women lawmakers rose from 32 to 42%, catapulting Switzerland into the top 15 countriesexternal link for gender balance in parliament.

One might expect such a political shift to lead to dramatic changes for business. But it’s not happening yet in Switzerland, according to political pundits. The NZZ newspaper points out that the Greens still don’t hold a majority in the House. And the Senate, which still has run-off elections in November, is not expected to be hit with the same green waveexternal link. That chamber has been the source of the real hold-up on the Responsible Business Initiative, so whether anything changes there remains a question mark.

One thing the election did for certain was cement climate change in the electorate’s consciousness. Basel-based agricultural firm Syngenta already capitalized on the green momentumexternal link with an announcement that it’s investing $2 billion to halve its emissions by 2030. 

But the public is also becoming more discerning when it comes to greenwashing publicity stunts. This is thanks in part to recent reports of oil majors spending millions in the last decade on lobbying EU politiciansexternal link to water down climate legislation even as many spout support for climate change measures.

Coca-Cola and Nestlé still top the list of the biggest plastic pollutersexternal link despite vocal commitments to combat plastic waste. And banks such as Blackrockexternal link (see the bank’s response hereexternal link) and Credit Suisse laud responsible investment while bankrolling destruction in the Amazonexternal link, according to recent reports.

What change do you think the green wave will bring for multinationals? Let me know at jessica.davis@swissinfo.ch

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And in other news:

There were rumblings in the cocoa world as the World Cocoa Foundation partnership meeting convened in Berlin. Various media outlets reported that the governments of Ivory Coast and Ghana, which produce more than 60% of the world’s cocoa, were threatened to suspendexternal link company sustainability programs after companies resisted the countries’ calls for a living income premiumexternal link to tackle persistent farmer poverty.

In the end, the parties kissed and made up and came away with a plan where premiums and corporate programs like those led by Swiss companies like Nestlé and Barry Callebaut coexist. But, the Washington Post reported that our Halloween candyexternal link is still far from sustainable with big companies unlikely to meet targets on deforestation and ending child labour.

Opioid use has also made waves in Switzerland according to a media investigation that found “very critical” concerns about the level of oversight on the prescription of opioidsexternal link. Authorities argue that although opioid use has surged in the last few years, the country is far from a crisis point thanks to stricter laws on drug advertising.

However, anecdotes from physicians reveal that more people are demanding oxycodone-containing drugs and don’t understand the risks. The situation in Switzerland is made more complicated by the fact that the maker of OxyContin, Purdue Pharma, has a subsidiary in Basel and its owners, the Sackler family, have allegedly used Swiss accounts to channel money.

Potential conflicts of interest reared their heads again. This time a petition has been launched to keep the former head of Nestlé public affairsexternal link from taking up a top post at the Swiss development agency responsible for issues including water, that has been a sore spot for the food and beverage giant.

As Le Courrier reports, more questions are being raised about the government’s cozy relations withexternal link business, especially after the paper reported that thirteen embassy events between 2016 and 2019 were sponsored by controversial companies such as Glencore, Shell and Philip Morris.

What’s coming up? 

Next week, my colleague Anand Chandrasekhar looks at why Nestlé isn’t going to meet its 100% no-deforestation commitment by 2020.

Got a tip? Send me a message.external link

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