Switzerland country profile - SDGs and the environment

Briefing Published 02 Dec 2020 Last modified 02 Dec 2020
3 min read
In 2016, the Federal Council of Switzerland adopted the Sustainable Development Strategy (SDS) 2016-19 which underlines the need for sustainable development to feature in all policy areas. Well aligned with the SDGs, the Swiss SDS includes an action plan which is structured by thematic priority areas of action for the prioritised SDGs.

The SDS is complemented by an action plan that lays out concrete actions and initiatives in nine target areas, including responsible consumption and production (SDG 12); urban development, mobility and infrastructure (SDGs 9, 11); energy and climate change (SDGs 7 and 13); as well as the protection of natural resources (SDGs 2, 6, 15) (Swiss Confederation, 2016).

Switzerland’s actions towards SDGs with an environmental dimension focus primarily on SDGs 2, 6, 7, 9, 11, 12, 13 and 15.

The federal government’s other environmental goals include the conservation status of the populations of national priority species by 2020 and improved conditions in endangered habitats (SDG 15), the limited impact of waste and closing materials’ cycles (SDG 12) (Swiss Confederation, 2018).

Switzerland’s VNRs recognise barriers and conflicts related to mainstreaming the economic, social and environmental dimensions of innovation, including ‘conflicts of use’ in environmental protection, human settlement, energy, and transport, as well as domestic policy spillovers. The 2018 VNR identified areas where additional efforts are needed to achieve the SDGs. For example,, Switzerland’s use of natural resources from within the country is declining but its use of natural resources from abroad is ‘increasing in an unsustainable way’, hindering the country’s progress on SDG 12 (Swiss Confederation, 2018). 

In Switzerland, the SDG action is pursued at the federal, regional, and communal level. Its 16 regional governments (cantons) and 234 municipalities are strongly involved in sustainable development policies and many have adopted their own strategies. High-level supervision on SDG action is provided by the Federal Council of Switzerland. The federal government intends to intensify dialogue with the cantons and communes and support them on  the 2030 Agenda, for example, through platforms for exchange and networks (Swiss Confederation, 2018). An Interdepartmental National 2030 Agenda Working Group was also created to coordinate national efforts and ensure that the SDGs are integrated within Switzerland’s institutions. It is co-led by the Federal Office for Spatial Development and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (Swiss Confederation, 2018). 

Switzerland works closely with civil society and the private sector to advance its SDG action. All  levels of government as well as the private sector, non-governmental organizations and the scientific community are engaged in the process at the federal, cantonal and communal level, according to relevant competencies, established division of tasks and the principle of subsidiarity. Many cantons and communities have defined sustainability and coordination mechanisms for sustainable development and engage in dialogue with the federal government on SDG action. An advisory group of non-state actors has identified priority challenges for the country and provides a platform for dialogue with the federal government on issues related to achieving the SDGs (Swiss Confederation, 2018).

Switzerland submitted two VNRs to the UN in 2016 and in 2018.

To track its progress towards the SDGs, Switzerland uses its sustainable development monitoring and reporting system (MONET) which has been in place since 2003. In May 2016, MONET’s reference framework was realigned with the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs. The system was expanded to enable the continuous monitoring of progress towards the goals and is currently tracking 85 SDG indicators. Federal offices are required to address sustainable development in their periodic reports on items of business or areas covered by their sectoral policies. Switzerland plans to publish a report on progress towards achieving the SDGs every four years, as from 2018. It will also draft a report in partnership with the cantons, communes and non-governmental actors which will be released to the public at the same time (Swiss Confederation, 2017b).


Swiss Confederation, 2016, Switzerland’s initial steps towards the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Swiss confederation, Bern, Switzerland, accessed 10 October 2017.

Swiss Confederation, 2017a, ‘Online Consultation on the Implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’, Swiss confederation, Bern, Switzerland, accessed 23 October 2017.

Swiss Confederation, 2017b, National reporting, Swiss confederation, Bern, Switzerland, accessed 23 October 2017.

Swiss Confederation, 2018, Switzerland implements the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: Switzerland’s Country Report, Swiss confederation, Bern, Switzerland.


The country assessments are the sole responsibility of the EEA member and cooperating countries supported by the EEA through guidance, translation and editing.


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