Circular Economy Should be Boosted, Swiss Business Forum Concludes

OBU Conference Circular EconomyZürich, 2 June 2016 Participants of the annual Swiss Business Council for Sustainable Development’s organised “Forum ö” conference formulated recommendations and conclusions in Zürich last week, including “circular economy should be boosted”, “social innovations are the essential elements of sustainability and not a result of it”, and “think outside-in, from social challenge to the business solution”.

The conference, organised by WRF partners, the Swiss Business Council for Sustainable Development ÖBU and the entrepreneurial community Impact Hub Zürich, showcased how young start-ups could successfully integrate their sustainable innovations into the corporate strategies of large and well-established companies. Examples included SAP cooperation with Specialisterne Deutschland AG in applying employment programs for people with Autisms (Autism at Work Initiative), SBB AG collaboration with ImaginCargo GmbH in bike-train-bike delivery of packages, and the case where La Roche AG used the benefit of consultation with Visionarity AG to reduce their laboratory energy consumption to 44%. Representatives of well-known Swiss entrepreneurs such as Ricola, Rivella and Goba introduced their sustainable business strategies that have helped them to manage employees, production and corporate social responsibility.

OBU Conference Circular Economy
Carmen Walker Späh

At a time of globalization, resource scarcity and demographic transitions, accomplishments and attractiveness of companies are strongly depend on their performance on sustainability. This is the area where innovations can play a major role. Carmen Walker Späh, member of the governing council of the Swiss Canton Zürich, reflected on the leading position of Switzerland in innovations and recalled the famous quote from Roman Herzog that “Die Fähigkeit zur Innovation entscheidet über unser Schicksal” (our ability to innovate determines our fate). The challenge is when innovation, sustainability and traditional corporate values have to be combined and collaborate with each other. John Elkington, advisor, entrepreneur and author of several books (who is best known for introducing terms such as triple bottom line or People, Planet, Profit), discussed about the risks and threats of coping with global changes and deliberated the importance of focusing on breakthrough innovations for sustainable development in order to avoid breakdown and disruption.

WBCSD workshop
WBCSD workshop

The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) introduced five primary strategies a company can choose to achieve new innovative offerings that can deliver measurable social impacts. These are known as: investing in external solutions, engaging a network, accelerating externally, sandbox solutions and innovating in-house. However, in real examples companies might need to combine different strategies to find the best-fit. During several talks, workshops, panel discussions and networking breaks, the participants had the chance to discuss and exchange their view about the main theme “how can well-established and traditional entrepreneurs benefit from sustainable innovations in order to remain in the path of success?” Main topics and questions discussed were how to develop innovative ideas, users and innovations, from CSR to corporate impact venturing, breakthrough strategies for social impact.

24.CartoonaRoland Betschart from Zurich Schweiz (Zurich Insurance) emphasized on the risks of climate change for Switzerland and announced their new initiative in supporting innovative projects which can offer sustainable solutions for climate protection. The deadline for submitting proposals is 10 June 2016.

A report of the conference, presentations and photo gallery will be published on the ÖBU website in the second week of June 2016. 

oebu_c_rgb_posÖBU, the Swiss Business Council for Sustainable Development, was founded in 1989, and has more than 400 Swiss companies developing business activities towards a more sustainable future. Together with EMPA, Ecos, the Swiss Academies of Science and the WRF they are partners in the organisation of the first Swiss Resources Forum to be held in Zurich on 1 December 2016.

Circular economy will be the key theme of the World Circular Economy Forum, to be held in Helsinki, June 5-6, 2017, co-organised by WRF with the Finnish Innovation Fund SITRA and the Nordic Council of Ministers.

This article was written by Shahrzad Manoochehri, WRF