Swiss Prime Site is continuously developing its sustainability strategy. Self reflection is essential to this process, as is feedback from third parties. For that reason, Swiss Prime Site established its first stakeholder panel in 2017. Representatives of a number of stakeholder groups were invited to take part in an open discussion to evaluate the company’s sustainability strategy, the materiality of the topics it is addressing, the targets set and the measures defined for achieving them. The panel members were:
Lucia Döbeli, Head of Public Affairs, Swiss Life
Daniela Zimmermann, owner and Managing Director, Concreda
Christophe Berger, CEO, NTT Data Switzerland
Jöri Engel, CEO, Swisscom Immobilien
Professor François Höpflinger, Head of the Center for Gerontology, Zurich University Hospital
Vincent Kaufmann, Director, ETHOS
Dr. Gerhard Wagner, Head of ESG Solutions, Swisscanto Invest
Beat Zahnd, Head Retail Department, Migros
The panel discussion and the preparatory steps
While the number of participants in the first panel was deliberately kept low, it was nevertheless possible to include representatives of the various stakeholder groups and to canvass their views on all the key topics – politics and the economy, IT and digitalisation, users and clients, social and business ethics, investors and the retail sector.
Before the panel meeting, the stakeholders received copies of the 2016 annual report which included a chapter on corporate responsibility formulated in accordance with GRI standards. They also received an online questionnaire. This was completed by the stakeholders, by the Executive Board and by members of senior management. The objective here was to evaluate the materiality of the content of the topics addressed in the report and to identify any further issues or matters requiring discussion.
The panel was chaired by René Zahnd, the CEO, and Urs Baumann, Head of Sustainability and Innovation, with minutes taken by an independent third party. Proceedings began with a short presentation of the company and its activities. The questionnaire results were then presented by Sustainserv, a sustainability consultancy firm retained by Swiss Prime Site. This was followed by a two-and-half hour discussion, facilitated by a moderator. The points discussed were then formulated in an official panel statement which was acknowledged by the company in its letter of thanks.
Both original documents are available for download from the Swiss Prime Site website. The statements reproduced below have been partially abbreviated. The results of the materiality analysis are summarised in the next section.
The stakeholder panel acknowledges the sustainability measures Swiss Prime Site has taken so far. It appreciates the comprehensive reporting provided by the company and its willingness to engage in open dialogue. In issuing a report in accordance with Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) standards, Swiss Prime Site has taken on a pioneering role in its industry. This raises a question as to the extent to which sustainability can be operationalised within the company and supported by its employees.
The panel sees the greatest potential for further development in the definition of concrete sustainability targets and measures for their achievement. The panel also encourages Swiss Prime Site to define its corporate sustainability profile more precisely, to identify synergies within the company and to consolidate its pioneering position.
In the panel’s view, Swiss Prime Site’s reporting covers the key sustainability topics and presents them comprehensively. The panelists recommend that greater emphasis be placed on the elements linking the Group companies and the unique position of Swiss Prime Site resulting therefrom. Urban development, intergenerationality and habitat design are suggested as possible topics here. To enhance the credibility of the reporting further, the stakeholders recommend that the sustainability targets be incorporated into the report, that progress in attaininig them be transparently reported and that illustrative examples be given of cases where conflicts arise between targets.
The panelists welcome Swiss Prime Site’s stated objective of reducing the energy consumed by its properties and thus cutting the CO2 they generate. They recommend that an ultimate CO2 reduction target be defined based on the global 2-degree objective set out in the Paris Agreement and that concrete intermediate goals also be set. In addition to recommending that sustainability certification be obtained for the properties in the portfolio, the panel also expects Swiss Prime Site to exceed the required standards, given the leadership role it has in its sector. The panel also sees the value chain as a means of achieving significant leverage for greater sustainability. The panelists encourage Swiss Prime Site to focus more intensively on the interfaces it has with its clients and to involve suppliers and business partners more actively in its sustainability initiatives.
As the digitalisation of business processes gathers pace, companies will be required to be more transparent about how they use data and ensure that it remains safe. In addition to creating new business models, digitalisation can also make processes more efficient and create new types of jobs. The panelists recommend that Swiss Prime Site take a proactive approach to addressing concerns about digitalisation among its employees, tenants and users and to demonstrating the benefits which digital technology can deliver.
To sum up:
the panel expects Swiss Prime Site to
define concrete sustainability objectives and
outperform sustainability benchmarks and exceed expectations and
pursue and expand the existing dialogue.
Responses to the panel statement
Swiss Prime Site is convinced that adopting the GRI standards provides an appropriate and comprehensive structure for its sustainability reporting, which it intends to expand continuously over the next few years. Making sustainability a guiding principle for the Group could lend additional impetus to this process.
The formulation of objectives for energy use and CO2 emissions represents a milestone for every company. These targets need to be developed on the basis of a reliable analysis of energy consumption data and a long-term investment plan. These then provide the template for a robust development model which is applied to the entire portfolio. Swiss Prime Site concurs with the panel’s view that there is a fundamental market demand for buildings with certified sustainability characteristics. Swiss Prime Site has a policy of planning and carrying out its modernisation and development projects in accordance with the criteria specified in the current Swiss Sustainable Building Standards (SNBS 2.0). At present, certification is awarded to individual buildings.
Swiss Prime Site sees the panel’s recommendation that its sustainability initiatives be extended to suppliers and business partners as a more significant challenge. While some initial ideas on targeted awareness raising outside the company itself have been developed, for these to gain traction it will first be necessary to define suitable metrics and contractual provisions which appropriately reflect the economic interests of both parties concerned.
The panel’s suggestion that networks be established lends further concrete expression to the recommendation that third parties be incorporated in the company’s sustainability initiatives. Local and regional networks are crucially important to the business of the Group companies. They enable Swiss Prime Site to benefit from the profile it has adopted in the Swiss market, where federalism and differences in cantonal legislation can be seen as both a burden and an opportunity.
The topic of digitalisation and data protection is one which the panel considered to be critical and highly sensitive, both from a regulatory standpoint and from the point of view of clients and users. This is another area in which Swiss Prime Site and its Group companies are striving to lead by example. The objective here is to review all data-protection measures systematically and regularly, to help to allay any scepticism towards digitalisation and to develop a number of future scenarios to demystify the implications of digital technology by providing additional transparency and information.