Scopes Report: The state of sustainability communication in Switzerland

How do Swiss consumers rate the sustainability communication of companies in this country? And what challenges do experts from said companies face when it comes to talking about sustainability? This is the subject of a joint report by Publicis, Grownate and the HSG.

Dr. Alexander Haldemann, CEO of Publicis Groupe Switzerland, presented the insights of the Scopes Report on Tuesday. (Image: zVg.)

Sustainability is not a new issue for companies. But in the face of climate change, the massive decline in biodiversity, and the fact that many people want to maintain or improve their standard of living while no longer disregarding global supply chains and the rights of previously disadvantaged groups, companies are focusing even more on sustainable business practices.

It is not only what they "do" that is important, but also what they "say" - how they communicate about their sustainability activities and how that is received by Swiss consumers.

In order to learn more about the status quo of sustainability communication in Switzerland, Publicis Groupe Switzerland, Grownate and the Institutes of Economics and Ecology as well as Marketing and Customer Insight at the University of St. Gallen HSG joined forces - and published the "Swiss Consumer Perception of Sustainability" report - or Scopes Report for short - on Tuesday.

Who has a lasting effect, who doesn't?

For the quantitative part of the report, 5,555 people from all over Switzerland were asked which dimension of corporate sustainability - ecological, social or economic - is most important to them. They were also asked to say which companies already make a particularly sustainable impression on them. On the latter question, companies characterized by "Swissness" such as AXA Switzerland, Ricola, Victorinox, V-Zug and Zurich Insurance Group scored highly, while online mail-order companies such as AliExpress and Wish were far behind.

In their verdict, consumers considered it important above all that companies are committed to the environment - in other words, that they prioritize the ecological dimension of sustainability. The social and economic dimensions of sustainability are less important to Swiss consumers, probably because they are "less tangible" in everyday life.

Nevertheless, they must not be neglected in corporate communications under any circumstances, otherwise there is a risk of a dangerous imbalance - and the accusation of "greenwashing," which now represents a veritable business risk. For companies in Switzerland, the Scopes Report shows, sustainability communication is about one thing above all: balance.

What challenges are corporate executives experiencing?

In the qualitative part of the report, managers from companies in various sectors (such as the beverage, food, construction and transport industries) reported on the sustainability issues with which they address the public - and which are more reserved for internal communication. These experts pointed out how important it is to differentiate between the interests of consumers ("How is recycling done?", "Are the lights switched off at night?", ...) and the interests of B2B clients ("Are the sustainability criteria for a potential partnership guaranteed along the entire supply chain?", ...); otherwise, any communicative effort would miss its target. According to the experts, it is also advantageous for companies to cooperate with NGOs or external stakeholders that already enjoy an excellent reputation in the field of sustainability - because this "rubs off". In contrast, certificates and labels, according to the sober conclusion of the interviewees, would have relatively little impact: Because there are so many of them, consumers are usually unable to judge what they mean. This puts certificates and labels in B2C communication into perspective.

Further details on the Scopes report are available for download in the complete version at

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