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7 June 2017 Insight

Business meets the public – a beer with the CEO

The Swiss are known for being business friendly. But business is facing ever more criticism, so the Swiss business federation economiesuisse has launched an ambitious initiative to help close the perceived gap between business and society

From the financial crisis to globalisation and digitalisation, the pace of change in every area of our lives is dizzying. Some people feel lost and left behind and have become mistrustful of business.

economiesuisse decided to take action and started a campaign called “Business dialogue”. The goal is as simple as it is difficult to achieve: closing the perceived gap between business and society by restoring trust in businesses.

economiesuisse decided to go out and listen and talk to people all over the country – wherever they are, in language everyone understands. How? Well, it could be going to the pub and meeting Mr and Ms Switzerland for a beer and a chat. And that’s what economiesuisse does. Together with a handful of business leaders from local and global companies such as Swisscom, Zurich or Pilatus Aircraft, economiesuisse invited the public for a beer in Zurich, a coffee in Berne or a drink in Lugano. Local media partnerships help to make sure everyone hears about it and the idea spreads – in many different towns and cities ever since.

 All the women and men working in our companies – the pioneers, the innovative brains, the brave entrepreneurs, as well as you and me – all of us, are making Switzerland a success story.

This simple format is a win-win – it not only gives Mr and Ms Switzerland the chance to speak to business leaders openly about their personal concerns and expectations. It also broadens the horizons of the business leaders themselves, and gives them a feel for what is happening out there.

The feedback from both sides is positive. Of course, we can’t meet our goals by listening and talking alone, but it is a good first step that has to be followed up with responsible action in the business world, as well as in citizens’ – voters’ – daily lives. economiesuisse president Heinz Karrer passionately backs the programme. “Switzerland is an incredible country with a strong and very international economy. All the women and men working in our companies – the pioneers, the innovative brains, the brave entrepreneurs, as well as you and me – all of us, are making Switzerland a success story.”

That’s the essence of the message Karrer and his team want to bring to the people. The story of a country where everyone shares in success. Where business, society and politics are seen as one picture rather than separate entities. And in which business leaders care about their employees, take responsibility, and listen to help bring about a successful and inclusive future for Switzerland. This can’t just be a PR stunt. Karrer and his team know that the work must be done honestly and with a long-term view. After two years of going out into the regions, the response to the chat-over-a-beer events speaks for itself. Karrer is keen to continue. “The dialogue with all the different people broadens my horizons. If we want to bring back trust in business we must make sure people feel like they’re part of it.”

Beside beers, economiesuisse and its business members invited the public to go for a hike with a group of CEOs last summer – the beautiful Swiss countryside is made for it after all. More than 200 men and women applied for the opportunity to chat with those business leaders in three different regions of Switzerland.

Find out more about economiesuisse hiking events here or here 

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