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ESG – Environmental, social and governance

Environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria are at the forefront of corporate strategies, due to investor, customer and regulator expectations. The topic has been gaining momentum and is expected to accelerate in the coming years.

ESG is broadening its scope of influence to cover all economic and policy sectors now. From energy, finance and urban planning to tax – these are just a few of the areas that are being impacted.

We advise clients – from multinationals to start ups – in all sectors and areas of ESG-related law, including:

  • future mobility
  • climate change strategies
  • ESG due diligence and risk assessments
  • corporate digital responsibility
  • sustainable supply chains whistleblowing
  • ESG funds
  • and green real estate finance.

At CMS, our approach is integrated and multidisciplinary – this enables us to anticipate and understand the issues in the rapidly evolving ESG landscape which in turn allows us to develop innovative solutions for and with our clients.

With their in-depth expertise in these areas, our teams of lawyers around the world identify risks and threats while seizing opportunities arising from the increasing focus on ESG for our clients.

Our aim is to help our clients successfully meet the demands of climate change, technological disruption, urbanisation and social concerns.

Please contact any of our ESG lawyers to explore solutions to your needs, by clicking below: 


Responsible Business
Sustainability – Making an Impact
Podcast Episode #11 | ESG @ CMS


Green claims - what needs to be considered
Consumers are increasingly focused on sustainability. Studies have shown that products with green claims sell better than others. But where are the limits of what is permitted when using green claims?
Diverse legal reference points for biodiversity
Biodiversity ensures the functioning of all the ecosystem services that humans depend on. It supplies us with drinking water, forms the basis for food production and provides energy sources. It regulates the climate and protects us from natural hazards. Biodiversity is, therefore, not only of importance to nature. It is a foundation for our society and the entire economy. A large proportion of companies depend directly or indirectly on biodiversity.
Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism transition in effect since 1 October...
On 1 October 2023, a two-year transitional period began for implementation of Regulation (EU) 2023/956, which introduces the Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM). CBAM levies punitive CO2 charges...
Legal Flash - The Federal Council Aims to Combat Greenwashing in Financial...
Background In 2022, sustainable investments worth around 1.98 trillion Swiss francs were made in Switzerland, according to the industry association Swiss Sustainable Finance (SSF). The number of cases of greenwashing by banks and financial service providers around the world has increased by 70 % in the last 12 months, according to RepRisk.On 30 September 2023, the Asset Management Association Switzerland (AMAS) Swiss Self-Regulation for Sustainable Asset Management entered into effect. Such sustainability self-regulation represents a further step in the transformation of the Swiss regulatory framework to integrate sustainable concepts, principles and rules. In addition, AMAS together with the SSF published the Swiss Stewardship Code, a guide to the exercise of shareholder rights by investors in Switzerland, on 4 October 2023. These new initiatives follow the Swiss Bankers Association (SBA) self-regulation on ESG integration issued by the SBA in June 2022, which entered into effect on 1 January 2023. From the perspective of the Swiss Federal Finance Department (FFD), however, these measures are currently not sufficient. The FFD has thus informed the Swiss Federal Council on 25 October 2023 that it intends to draw up a proposal for an ordinance for “prin­ciple-based state regulation” with regard to greenwashing in financial products by the end of August 2024, if the industry does not improve by then. Key Findings Swiss Self-Regulation for Sustainable Asset Management  The concept of “sus­tain­ab­il­ity” is of central importance for the application of sustainability self-regulation. A mere reference to individual elements or approaches to sustainability, such as exclusions of specific issuers or a simple ESG integration approach, is not considered a sufficient reference to sus­tain­ab­il­ity.If reference is made only to the application of an ESG integration approach, it must be clearly stated that the collective investment scheme in question is not sustainable or is not managed sustainably. The same applies to a sustainable strategy that focuses exclusively on the exclusion approach.It is important to note that a reference to a particular approach, or a general reference to sustainability or ESG, can constitute a greenwashing risk irrespective of whether the sustainability self-regulation applies, if such reference is misleading, confusing or simply not appropriate to the nature of the assets or management.The application of comparable foreign standards – such as the EU Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation (SFDR) – is sufficient to meet the sustainability self-commitment issued by AMAS.The sustainability strategy with an indication of the investment approach pursued (e.g. exclusions, impact investing, thematic investing, etc.) must be made available to investors.The asset management agreement (directly or via an annex) shall specify the minimum proportion of investments that must comply with the sustainability requirements defined in the investment policy.Investors are informed about the sustainability approaches at least once a year in a report. For impact investing strategies, the annual reporting must show the extent to which the stated sustainability goals have been achieved. Key Findings Swiss Stewardship Code  The aim of this Code is to promote the active exercise of shareholder rights by investors in Switzerland by developing a more sustainable economy and increasing long-term returns for investors, taking into account sustainability risks.The Code is not binding. It is applicable on a voluntary basis and only makes recommendations. According to AMAS and SSF, the principles of the Code are aligned with the Global Stewardship Principles of the International Corporate Governance Network (ICGN).The Guideline addresses investors, as well as their asset managers and other service providers that deploy stewardship activities for investors.The Guideline complements existing civil and regulatory obligations. In other words, the Code does not conflict with such obligations or requirements, and compliance with its principles does not relieve investors and/or service providers from their respective obligations.In total, the guideline consists of nine principles for effective stewardship: (1) governance, (2) stewardship guidelines, (3) voting, (4) engagement, (5) escalation, (6) monitoring investees, (7) delegation of stewardship activities, (8) conflicts of interest, and (9) transparency and reporting. More information can be found here.Although this Code remains prin­ciples-based, it contains several specific recommendations and a clear methodology that can be of useful assistance to investors, asset managers and other service providers engaged in sustainable investment and stewardship. Conclusion The entry into force of sustainability self-regulation is another step in the transformation of the Swiss regulatory framework to integrate sustainable concepts, principles and rules. AMAS will continue to promote solutions and initiatives for an appropriate sustainable framework for the Swiss asset management industry, such as the Swiss Stewardship Code developed together with Swiss Sustainable Finance SSF or the promotion of the already existing Swiss Climate Score. Considering the intentions of the Swiss Federal Finance Department to potentially implement state regulation on greenwashing, the coming months will be decisive for whether Switzerland will opt for self-regulation, tough regulatory provisions or, even, a combination of both approaches.
Update on greenwashing in Switzerland
On 25 October 2023, the Swiss Federal Council published a press release announcing that the Federal Department of Finance (FDF) will implement the Swiss Federal Council's position on the greenwashing...
Swiss self-regulation for sustainable asset management: takeaways at the...
BackgroundOn 26 September 2022, the Asset Management Association Switzerland (AMAS) published a principle-based self-regulation for sustainable asset management, which is mainly applicable to its members...
The European Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive (CSDDD) –...
What is CSDDD?On 23 February 2022, the European Commission published its proposal for a Directive on corporate sustainability due diligence (the “Proposal”), which aims to foster sustainable and responsible...
Biodiversity: now a topic for companies
Biodiversity: the variety of lifeThe term biodiversity, also known as species diversity, is understood to mean a richness of animals, plants, fungi and microorganisms. The term also encompasses the genetic...
Podcast Episode #17 | equIP and Pelt8 - Special Episode in English
What do we offer as part of our equIP programme to help start-ups scale? Discover how Pelt8 helps its clients to collect sustainability data in an easy and auditable way, and learn about their experience as an equIP participant.
CBAM Implementing Regulation and Extensive Additional Reporting Guidance...
Earlier this month, the European Commission (“EC”) adopted an Implementing Regulation (“IR”) and released extensive Guidance Documents (“Guidance”) on the practicalities of reporting requirements...
Plastics and packaging laws in Switzerland
1. What is the general legislative framework regulating packaging and plastic waste in your jurisdiction? Particularly when compared to the regulations within the European Union, plastic waste and packaging...
Swiss Bankers Association issues new client information on ESG-risks
BackgroundIn June 2023, the Swiss Bankers Association (SBA) has included a new section on ESG-risks in its information brochure on "Risks Involved in Trading Financial Instruments". This new section supplements...