Sino-Swiss Economic Forum turns the spotlight on sustainability

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Press releases, 20.11.2020

Swiss and Chinese business leaders and political heavyweights brought sustainability into the spotlight at the grand finale of the sixth Sino-Swiss Economic Forum on Friday in Beijing’s Four Seasons Hotel.

The sixth Sino-Swiss Economic Forum
The sixth Sino-Swiss Economic Forum © Swiss Embassy

Executives from Swiss multinational giants including Nestlé, ABB, Swiss Re, SGS as well as Chinese business leaders like tech giant Alibaba and Greatview Packaging discussed innovative initiatives for sustainable development during the evening’s event.

In a keynote speech, Swiss Ambassador to China Bernardino Regazzoni emphasized Swiss enterprises’ commitment to sustainable development in China: “They are even generating synergies among themselves here in China to bring out sustainable, innovative and creative solutions to global concerns.”

The Sino-Swiss Economic Forum (SSEF), started in 2010, is a biennial event and the biggest economic forum between Switzerland and China. To mark the 70th anniversary of Sino-Swiss Relations, this year’s forum, organized by the Embassy of Switzerland and Swiss Chamber of Commerce in China, centered on sustainability and the role of technology in achieving sustainable goals. Friday’s event is the closing ceremony for this year’s SSEF, which has seen a series of seminars in October.

In two panel discussions of the night, business managers from global giants and small and medium sized enterprises exchanged views with researchers on circular business models, green initiatives and the opportunities technology advancement brings in meeting sustainable development goals.

Rashid Qureshi – Nestlé

The pandemic showed an important change in consumer behaviors. They are now looking for more healthy and natural organic products. Customers are increasingly more aware of the necessity to protect the environment. Nestlé is embracing now circular business models, not later. For instance, Nestlé is today committed to shift to 100% sustainable reusable packaging by 2025 and CO2 neutral 2050.”

John Chen – Swiss Re

“Companies need concrete goals to tackle sustainability issues. Swiss Re sets clear target such as we did in 2017 when we shifted to 100% ESG compliant investments. Covid-19 is a very powerful reminder that we have to commit to ambitious goals. Moreover, it will be through the creation of a joint movement with international partners that companies and society will reach those goals”.

Henry Huiyao Wang  - Center for China & Globalization (CCG)

“Covid-19 is a severe wake-up call for mankind. We realized that is so important to respect the nature. Globalization will take a new turn now. It is time to turn to sustainable concrete practices if we want to reach target such as the 2060 Chinese CO2 neutrality goal. In China, it will be important to continue encouraging trend such as green energy development. However, we have to remember that 1.4 billion people, getting used to fast deliveries, are producing a lot of garbage. Education will be key to shape green behaviors.”

Jeff Bi  - Greatview Aseptic Packaging

How to make consumers willing to pay for greener, certified and hence more costly products (up to +15%) in a society where people want fast and cheap products? We need to foster consumers’ awareness with transparent standards to empower them and allow them to reward best practices. This will force companies to embrace green practices”.

More than 300 distinguished guests attended the evening’s event. In her welcome speech, Swiss State Secretary for Economic Affairs Marie-Gabrielle Ineichen-Fleisch stressed the strong bilateral economic relations despite the pandemic: “we continue to implement our bilateral Free Trade Agreement, and each year brings additional tariff reductions for imports into China. At the same time, discussions toward enhancing the FTA including in the area of tariffs are ongoing.”  

Switzerland and China signed a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement in 2013, the first FTA China had with a continental European country.