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Research and Development Projects

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Implementation of the new ISO 26000 Social Responsibility Standard for Companies in Switzerland

Background

Companies are increasingly expected to assume responsibility for the social impact of their activities (corporate social responsibility, CSR). With the ISO 26000 Standard (published at the end of 2010), ISO has formulated requirements for the implementation of CSR that are valid and accepted worldwide and applicable to all types and sizes of organizations and all industries. This worldwide standardization system matches the definition of social responsibility and sustainability throughout and provides concrete guidance on organizational management, working conditions, environmental protection, and other core issues of corporate social responsibility. SMEs often adopt individual elements of CSR according to ISO 26000 (for example, work safety management or quality assurance processes). As a rule, however, there is a lack of an integrated overall view of all relevant societal issues as well as all affected parts of the company and value creation stages. SMEs therefore need target-group-specific tools and support processes for the application of ISO 26000 that can take into account the actual framework conditions of their organization.

Description and Objectives

The aim of the project is to enable users to implement the standard by providing support through tools, process support, and optimization options. The approach helps to reduce the complexity of the ISO 26000 Standard to an easy and manageable level, makes a significant contribution to strengthening the international competitiveness of Swiss SMEs with regard to CSR, and promotes the application of the standard in Switzerland.

Project Partners

  • University of Lucerne HSLU (Project Management)
  • ZHAW School of Management and Law
  • Swiss Association for Standardization (SNV)
  • Neosys AG
  • Solidar Suisse
  • Swiss-TS Technical Services AG
  • Fortisa AG
  • Knecht & Müller AG
  • Kuhn Rikon AG
  • Heineken Switzerland AG
  • Raiffeisenbank Mischabel-Matterhorn

Results

The ISO 26000 Online Platform translates the ISO 26000 Standard into professional tools based on Excel tables. These can be used to answer the central questions of a company efficiently and purposefully:

    • Individually aligned to the needs of your company
    • Practically oriented and suitable for SMEs
    • With detailed instructions
    • With selectable level of detail
    • With links to GRI, ISO 14001, and EFQM
    • Developed and tested together with Swiss SMEs

      Reputational Risks Related to CR Issues in the Supply Chain

      Background

      Internationally operating companies are constantly working to improve the risk management processes and measures of their supply chain. However, studies show that almost half of the companies lack the resources to carry out appropriate audits at the desired level. Even companies with well-developed vendor audit processes are struggling with the challenge of applying the right auditing process to the right supplier in an efficient manner. Monitoring compliance with sustainability challenges (ESG risks) requires better quantification and identification of what exposes the company to these risks. This can help to ensure that companies supply their resources where they are most needed along the supply chain.

      Description and Objectives

      Jointly with its partner RepRisk, ZHAW is investigating how publicly available information can be used to increase transparency within a supply chain. The research is based on a previous study by RepRisk that has shown that local stakeholders often identify risks in the supply chain much earlier than the companies themselves. The project aims to make these local signals usable, thereby improving the transparency in the supply chain for new relationships with suppliers, the monitoring of suppliers, and compliance goals.

      Project Partners

      • ZHAW School of Engineering
      • ZHAW School of Management and Law
      • RepRisk AG
      • BASF SE
      • Pirelli & C. S.p.A.
      • Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies, Zug

      Results

      Web-based database application based on the evaluation of media events that allows companies to review their supply chains for reputation risks related to environmental, social, and governance issues; accessible via www.reprisk.com.

      Measuring the Effects of Business Activities in Developing Regions

      Background

      Companies are increasingly obliged to show clearly that their business activity in developing regions follows ethical and ecological minimum standards. However, these standards often do not measure the actual impact a company has on value creation and sustainability in the local environment. Conventional indicator sets on social responsibility or the sustainable development of companies (1) have been defined in a very abstract manner, (2) are focused on the minimization of negative effects, and (3) cover mainly internal principle and process indicators. The question of the actual effects on the local community of business activities is thus often left open.

      Description and Objectives

      The aim of the research project was the development and application of indicators that make it possible to assess, and thus make comparable, the sustainability topic of integration and community development for companies. In addition to process-oriented indicators (e.g., forms, purpose, and duration of cooperation with local actors and institutions, expenses of public-private partnerships, and local suppliers) mainly effectiveness-oriented indicators are to be defined (e.g., number of start-ups of local enterprises in the formal sector, quality of material and immaterial infrastructure, environmental and life quality, performance, and economic relevance of local universities).

      Project Partners

      • Center for Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability (CCRS) at the University of Zurich
      • Chiquita Brands International
      • Nestlé S.A.
      • Syngenta International AG
      • BHP - Brugger and Partners Ltd.
      • Inrate AG
      • Öbu - Swiss Sustainable Business Network
      • ZHAW School of Management and Law

      Results

      Indicator-based tool for assessing the positive impact of entrepreneurial activities in developing regions on local sustainability.

      Publications

      Stakeholder-Oriented Sustainability Reporting

      Background

      Many Swiss companies have realized that it is important to integrate aspects of sustainable development into entrepreneurial activity and to document related achievements. Companies of all sizes and industries publishing a sustainability report are currently faced with the following major challenges: increasing standardization through the further development of GRI, increasing importance of materiality and completeness as a result of GRI G4, tendency to integrate annual report and sustainability report, and unclear stakeholder or target group orientation.

      Description and Objectives

      In a case study approach, solutions were developed for the specific key challenges of Swiss companies in the area of sustainability reporting: stakeholder involvement, materiality, consideration of the value chain, and target group orientation.

      Project Partners

      • ZHAW School of Management and Law
      • University of Applied Sciences Northwestern Switzerland FHNW
      • Kuoni Travel Holding
      • Basler Kantonalbank/Bank Cler AG
      • BSD Consulting
      • Center for Corporate Reporting (CCR)

      Publications

      Study on Online CSR Communication

      Background

      Sustainability reporting is becoming increasingly important for large companies. Studies on sustainability reporting show a trend towards more reports; this trend will intensify due to the EU Directive on Sustainability Reporting. At the same time, companies face the challenge of providing information so that it can be used and processed by stakeholders according to their needs. The Internet offers communicative advantages in this regard. At the Leuphana University of Lüneburg, the Center for Sustainability Management and the Institute of Environmental Communication have conducted three studies to analyze the way sustainability communication and reporting using the Internet have developed in the investigation period (Blanke et al. 2004 and 2007; Giese et al. 2012). Building on these existing studies, a fourth study is being carried out. 

      Description and Objectives

      The new study aims to provide external feedback on this form of sustainability communication to the companies under investigation as well as to provide stakeholders with qualified information on the communication performance on sustainability topics. Data collection took place in November and December 2015. Starting point for the analysis was the sustainability area of the corporate website. In the respective classes, further areas of sustainability communication, including the (interactive) sustainability report and social media, were taken into account. For the first time, a survey was carried out for the DACH region (DAX, ATX and SMI). The corresponding web pages were examined using 27 criteria in four classes: information provision, accessibility, clarity, and dialogue.

      Project Partners

      • Chair of Business Administration, especially Cultural and Communication Management, Leuphana University of Lüneburg
      • Psychology School, Department of Business & Media, Fresenius University of Applied Sciences, Hamburg

      Results

      The comparison of the three countries Germany, Austria, and Switzerland shows that German companies are best at using the potential of the Internet for their CSR communication.

      Publications

      Sales-Targeted Arguments for Fairtrade Sugar

      Background

      Sugar is an ingredient in many foods and beverages. Many large food companies such as Nestlé, Unilever, and Mars have set goals for their procurement. In particular, they want to buy more sugar from sustainable sources. However, only a fraction of the global sugar is currently produced in sustainable ways. Sugar certified with the Fairtrade label is one way for large food companies to demonstrate that they are making progress with regard to their sustainable procurement targets.

      Description and Objectives

      In the study, arguments for the purchase of more Fairtrade sugar are being formulated, which are to be used for marketing activities at Fairtrade International. The arguments are aimed at buyers in large food companies. A comparison study was conducted with other large labels (e.g., Bonsucro) and conventionally produced sugar.

      Project Partners

      • ZHAW School of Management and Law
      • EBP
      • Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International, e.V.

      Results

      List of arguments for purchasing more Fairtrade sugar aimed at buyers in big food companies. The arguments are another resource for the marketing activities of Fairtrade International.

      Environmental Targets of Companies in Switzerland

      Background

      Companies have a decisive role in implementing the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) established in 2015. They have the resources and influence to make a significant contribution to sustainable development. The extent to which companies are aware of their social (corporate) responsibility is evident in, among other things, whether or not they have recognized environmental issues as a strategic success factor and systematically consider them in their management activities. A clear indicator of this is the existence of specific objectives.

      Description and Objectives

      The aim of the study was to establish the environmental goals published by Swiss companies or or environmental action areas are addressed and how the objectives have been formulated. Obstacles as well as potentially beneficial factors were also to be identified. For this purpose, the research team targeted the 500 largest Swiss companies. Those who have a public report and publish at least one environmental goal were examined in detail. The basic sample consisted of 88 companies. In addition, a comparative sample of eight small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with reporting on sustainability targets and a reputation for being pioneers, as well as eight multinational companies (MNEs) regarded as "best practice" in terms of environmental impact, were analyzed. Since the analysis of reports is unable to provide information on the motivation or the background behind setting goals, individual and group interviews were conducted. Subjects included managers or CEOs as well as those in charge of sustainability or environmental responsibility in some selected companies.

      Project Partners

      • University of Applied Sciences Northwestern Switzerland FHNW
      • ZHAW School of Management and Law
      • Swiss Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN)

      Results

      Depending on the sector, there are very different types of companies with environmental goals: While the paper and cardboard industry, banks, and the cosmetics industry account for 50% or more, the share in the computer and information technology sector is just 5%. Most companies that have a set of goals currently focus on energy, emissions, waste water and other waste, as well as production materials. Topics such as biodiversity, products, transportation, and supplier certificates receive less attention. In addition, the majority of the goals are restricted to internal concerns – the preceding and subsequent stages of the value chain are rarely considered.

      Publications

      The Relevance and Significance of the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises in Switzerland

      Background

      In order to fulfill their social responsibility and meet the expectations of stakeholders with regard to sustainable corporate governance, companies often refer to internationally accepted and legitimized standards. Among these standards, the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises occupy a special position. By requiring signatory governments to set up a National Contact Point (NCP) and the respective complaints procedure, the Guidelines have a sovereign component that is unique.

      Description and Objectives

      The study is based on a representative survey on the OECD Guidelines and the NCP and their popularity among and relevance for Swiss companies, compared to other international CSR standards. At the same time, it contributes to raising awareness of the OECD Guidelines and provides information on demand and the possible forms of support for companies concerning the implementation of the OECD Guidelines. In a first step, the reporting of the 500 top-selling Swiss companies as well as often international SMEs was analyzed with regard to the application of international standards for responsible corporate governance, including the OECD Guidelines. This was followed by an online survey of multinational companies headquartered in Switzerland on the awareness and relevance of the OECD Guidelines compared to other standards for responsible corporate governance. The standards of comparison used were the UN Global Compact, the standards of the Global Reporting Initiative, the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, and the Sustainable Development Goals. In order to interpret the results correctly and link them to the personal experience of managers from different companies, a third part of the survey involved focus group interviews with representatives of selected companies.

      Project Partners

      • ZHAW School of Management and Law
      • University of Applied Sciences Northwestern Switzerland FHNW
      • öbu - Swiss Sustainable Business Network
      • State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO)
      • Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC)

      Results

      Analysis of the top 500 corporations and an online survey showed that GRI, SDG, and UNGC are relatively significant for both large corporations and SMEs. Conversely, ISO 26000, OECD guidelines, and UNGP had the lowest significance. The reasons given for the lower importance attributed to OECD guidelines compared to other CSR standards were a lack of promotional activities by participating institutions, a limited range of specific benefits, and their proximity to state institutions. Although only a small proportion of the companies surveyed apply OECD guidelines, almost half of these corporations are actively addressing the CSR issues covered by the guidelines (e.g., working conditions, human rights, environmental protection). As for the knowledge of the companies surveyed regarding OECD guidelines, it is striking that there is a gap between those who know about the existence of the guidelines and those with detailed knowledge of the specifics of the guidelines. Two-thirds of corporations surveyed did not know about the existence of the NCP.

      Publications

      Development of Content and a Communication Concept for "SMART" Guidelines on Environmental and Sustainability Goals

      Background

      The project builds on a 2016 study on environmental objectives of businesses in Switzerland commissioned by the Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN). This study demonstrated that although sustainability issues, including corporate environmental concerned, have gained a foothold in many Swiss companies, it is mainly the large and the listed companies that are proactive in addressing environmental issues. Generally, SMEs are prevented from doing this by their comparatively limited resources. Instead, they value best practice examples and low-threshold, practical instruments and guidelines to help them formulate environmental goals and develop a sustainability strategy.

      Description and Objectives

      The project intends to enable small and medium-sized companies (with up to 250 employees) from various sectors to formulate environmental goals in a useful way. Simple, practically oriented guidelines have been developed to help Swiss SMEs understand the importance of SMART environmental goals in terms of effective, transparent environmental management. They will be able to use these guidelines to formulate, implement, and review environmental goals or (ecological) sustainability goals. This will enable them to initiate reporting by means of appropriate key performance indicators (KPIs) – an important step towards integrated sustainability management.

      Project Partners

      • ZHAW School of Management and Law
      • University of Applied Sciences Northwestern Switzerland FHNW
      • öbu - Swiss Sustainable Business Network
      • Swiss Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN)