Are you aged between 14 and 25 and a Swiss resident and do you have an idea that could change Switzerland at national political level?
The “Change Switzerland!” campaign organised by the Federation of Swiss Youth Parliaments (DSJ) has been launched for the fifth time. The campaign allows teenagers and young adults to use an online platform to voice their political concerns. “The “Change Switzerland!” campaign is the biggest project initiated by www.engage.ch. Every year, around 300 young people submit the topics that matter most to them, of which 33 have been selected over the last four years to be discussed and addressed by members of the Swiss Parliament,” reports Niculin Detreköy, campaign project leader at www.engage.ch.
This year is the second year running that Baloise has been involved as a partner of the national “Change Switzerland!” campaign. “As an employer, we want to make a positive contribution to social development. The right to political participation in Swiss democracy is a key aspect for us. We want to use the “Change Switzerland!” campaign not only to encourage our own trainees and young employees to get more involved, but also to help the campaign achieve greater visibility throughout Switzerland,” reports Dominik Marbet, Head of Public Affairs & Sustainability for the Baloise Group.
Commercial school intern Peter submitted his topic in 2019: Easier access to Swiss universities for holders of a specialised baccalaureate. In our next blog article, we will be revealing what political steps Peter has taken since 2019 together with National Councillor Nadine Masshard (Social Democratic Party of Switzerland), and what the Federal Council is doing about his submission.
Workshops on various topics are held during the campaign. Trainees and young employees from various different companies are given the chance to ask questions and talk to experts about their concerns. “We drew the attention of all of our trainees, interns and temporary student employees to the www.engage.ch campaign and the workshops that are being held and encouraged them to take part. 97 young people from Baloise have signed up for the eight workshops,” reports Dominik Marbet.
The “Environment and sustainability” workshop was held on 24 February 2021. Agnes Neher, Head of Responsible Investment at Baloise, was one of four experts to take part in the workshop, providing input, answering questions and joining in the discussion in a small group of eight young people.
As Head of Responsible Investment at Baloise, Agnes Neher is responsible for ensuring that we invest our money sustainably. “After completing my economics degree, I soon realised that it can’t be enough simply to maximise profits. My work reflects the area of conflict between ‘doing good’ and maximising profits for investors. We should be aiming to combine both aspects to reap benefits for everyone.” But what does sustainable investment mean? “The fact that we get to decide how we invest our money allows us to influence where funds end up going. For example, we don’t buy shares in companies that generate more than ten per cent of their turnover from coal production.”
The talks with the participants soon reveal that, while the topic meets with a great deal of interest, it is a very complex matter to be the subject of submissions at political level made by participants without prior knowledge. “Sustainable investment is often abstract and complicated. While the young people found the topic really interesting, it’s really difficult to motivate someone to make their own submission in this area.”
The workshop is soon dominated by the topic of sustainable food. “These are the relatable issues that we all deal with every day,” says Jane. The topic of food waste, in particular, came to the fore. “From education in schools to changes to food expiry dates, publicly funded fridges allowing people to share food that hasn’t gone off and the shape that certain vegetables have to have before they can be sold in supermarkets in the first place – the workshop produced a lot of interesting ideas on how to address the problem.”
Fast fashion is another hotly debated topic. Everyone agrees: we are consuming far too much. One idea: Might it not be better for big online retailers to at least not offer free shipping and donate this small amount instead? After much discussion with the experts, it becomes clear that, while the idea is a good one in theory, it is not enough to bring consumption levels down. What about a concept involving the state imposing requirements on clothing production? The discussion did not lead to any clear conclusion, but certainly provided food for thought.
Agnes concludes: “Whatever the topic, we ultimately all more or less agreed that information and education are not sufficient alone in order to make our behaviour more sustainable. The truth is that, sometimes, you need requirements and bans at a political level – this is something that the participants realised during the workshop and it goes to show just how important political engagement is.” In our next article, we will be reporting on how many submissions were ultimately made and what our young Baloisians thought of the workshops.