Sustainable investment in Switzerland

The fourth Swiss Sustainable Investment Market Study, jointly prepared by Swiss Sustainable Finance (SSF) and the Center for Sustainable Finance and Private Wealth at the University of Zurich, was released this week. The aim of this study is to give an in-depth overview into the dynamics of sustainable investments in Switzerland, pointing out the new trends and identifying where challenges and opportunities may lie ahead for investors.

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The boom of sustainable investing

Sustainable investing, considered a niche investment option just a few years ago, is now a key component of a balanced investment strategy for a wide range of investors. The COVID crisis, rather than deprioritise responsible investment, has helped accelerate its development and push sustainability to the forefront. Recent figures from Morningstar track this accelerated growth, highlighting its concentration in Europe as well as the future opportunity elsewhere.

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The retail industry and Xinjiang cotton

The retail industry and its supply chain are not without controversies and challenges for sustainable investors and consumers alike. As with other industries, retailers are facing increasing pressure to take responsibility for their footprints and what happens in their supply chains: the environmental impacts of their materials, the human rights and labour standards in the workhouses of their suppliers, and how the concept of fast fashion fits into a circular economy.

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Kamala Harris and the case for diversity

The election of Joe Biden as the next President of the United States is a relief for those involved in sustainability. From an environmental perspective simply a return to science-based policy making will be hugely welcome. Biden plans to re-join the Paris Climate Agreement on day one of his presidency, and despite potentially not having control of the Senate he should be able to proceed with many of his green goals; a task force put together during the campaign identified 56 policy moves on climate and energy that do not need help from Congress.

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The Evolution of Capitalism

Last month was the 50th anniversary of Milton Friedman’s influential report titled ‘The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase its Profits’, a mantra often heralded as the basis of the capitalist model used globally since, and now quite widely criticised as a cause of social inequalities and environmental externalities. The concept, as we are all aware of, was that business leaders should focus on creating as much value as possible for the owners of the company rather than on improving outcomes for a broader set of stakeholders.

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The social risks of fast fashion

The fast fashion industry has been a significant economic success story of the last two decades, nearly doubling in size, employing 70m people worldwide and contributing 2% to global GDP. This has been driven by huge advances in supply chain management, shrinking lead times from six months to two weeks and enabling retailers to stock more choice, reduce prices and respond rapidly to consumer demand.

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Family ownership and sustainability

An inherent aspect of sustainability is about encouraging the players of a market economy to consider the long term. This is explicit in the European Commission’s Action Plan on Financing Sustainable Growth; one of the plan’s three aims is to ‘foster transparency and long-termism’. If all CEOs and investors were only concerned about the next few quarters, or even years, then it’s easy to understand how sustainable factors such as finite resources, climate change and diversity wouldn’t feature high on the agenda.

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