What approaches are businesses taking to reduce emissions?
Teufel: It depends on the industry. It is important for a company to assess the amount of emissions it is directly or indirectly responsible for as a result of its business operations and to then identify the options for reducing them.
Who is at the forefront of these efforts?
Teufel: Utility companies, chemical and cement companies and automotive groups are currently taking the lead. The capital goods industry is catching up by offering its products and services in such a way that they cause as few emissions as possible and that products can be recycled. Similarly, shipping and aviation will follow suit – but these are the areas with the greatest challenges.
Which other industries will be next?
Isenegger: In addition to the aforementioned carbon-intense industries that are being forced to act in line with the notion of "transform or be transformed", an increasing number of companies are identifying opportunities. The consumer goods industry is doing this with sustainable products that are well-received by customers – a strategy known as "transform to win." The carbon reduction goals of the major consumer goods manufacturers are already having an impact on most upstream suppliers because they likewise have to adapt. A "domino effect" of decarbonization by supply chains can already be observed. In the field of finance, ESG ratings are increasingly gaining in importance in corporate valuations. This closes the decarbonization cycle between finance and the real economy.
Digital transformation places great demands on business. What is the role played by digitalization in the fight against climate change?
Teufel: Digitization in itself is neither good nor bad for achieving climate targets. It depends on what we do with it. Digitalization enables new forms of transparency, collaboration and control, provides the data for better-informed production and consumption decisions, and opens up new creative possibilities for environmental policy. Digitalization can be an engine of sustainability.
Asia and the USA are far ahead of us in Europe with regard to digitalization. Are we not in danger of being left behind in terms of decarbonization?
Teufel: Europe – and Switzerland along with it – has understood that decarbonization is the topic of the future. With the "Green Deal", the EU has shown that it does not want to be left behind again. And Switzerland, too, is exerting regulatory pressure with a view to giving the topic of sustainability a framework with specific requirements.
Isenegger: Just like with digitalization, green tech also involves competition among countries. The EU has recognized that investments in green tech, specifically after Covid, offer new growth opportunities. This is good and promotes competitiveness. The EU is investing, the USA under Joe Biden, too, as is China. Switzerland has a huge opportunity for taking a leading position in this respect. With technology institutions, such as ETH and EPFL, leading global companies and one of the world's most competitive SME landscapes in terms of innovation. We must not squander this situation.