Report urges more sustainability from Swiss financial centre

View of Paradeplatz in Zurich, Switzerland's largest financial centre. © Keystone / Gaetan Bally

Switzerland must make its financial centre more sustainable and transparent to ensure it doesn’t lose access to the European market, according to a report by PricewaterhouseCoopers seen by Swiss public radio, RTS. 

This content was published on March 19, 2019 minutes

This conclusion was part of an assessment carried out by the consulting firm and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), which analysed the consequences of the European Union’s action plan on financing sustainable growthExternal link, due to be presented to the European Parliament next autumn.

Under the plan, sustainable financial products sold in the EU may soon be attributed green EU labels to show whether they meet strict environmental standards. Switzerland is not an EU member but is closely tied through a series of bilateral accords.

If Switzerland fails to meet the standards, Switzerland could run the risk of losing access to the European market, warns PwC. 

“These European developments are a risk for the Swiss financial centre if it does not adapt to them,” Green parliamentarian Adèle Thorens told RTS. “If Europe makes clear provisions on sustainable finance and Switzerland is out of step, we risk problems of market access and legal equivalence.”

The Vaud politician is due to submit a parliamentary question demanding that the Federal Council assess the risks and necessary measures to be taken if the action plan passes. 

Better information for investors would already be a first step, said Thorens: “These are not very strong measures that are on the table. They are measures that look at transparency to tell us the impact of investments on the climate and the environment. I think it is in the interest of the Swiss financial centre to adapt to these new orientations in order to be able to continue to be competitive on a Swiss and global scale.”

Centre-right politicians, on the other hand, insist that the financial sector can regulate itself, and that sustainability is a good thing, but profitability is more important. 

Framework deal 

Meanwhile, the EU and Switzerland remain locked in difficult negotiations on a framework agreement to cement future ties currently governed by numerous bilateral accords.

Brussels wants Switzerland to agree a treaty before granting greater access to EU markets. But the Swiss government has yet to take a position and is carrying out a public consultation on the agreement proposed by the EU in December.  

The five key policy areas included in the draft framework accord which has been under discussion for the past five years are: free movement of people, agricultural products, air and ground transport, and mutual recognition of standards.  

Swiss appetite to finalise the agreement has been mixed, however, with politicians from both right and left recently calling for a renegotiation of the latest terms.  

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