The Private Sector and Sustainability. A New Way Forward?

The Private Sector and Sustainability. A New Way Forward?


On the 16th of March the Environmental Committee of the Graduate Institute has hosted its final event for the Swiss Sustainability Week, titled ‘The Private Sector and Sustainability. A New Way Forward?’.

It consisted of a keynote speech delivered by the Executive Director of UNITAR, mr. Nikhil Seth and a panel discussion led by the IHEID Phd candidate Dario Piselli with the participation of representatives from Mondelez International, Impact Hub Geneva, UNEP FI and WBCSD. The moderator inspired the audience by discussing how sustainability has become a focal point of discussion, and how relevant it ought to remain in the years to come. He also addressed the role of the approaching deadlines of Agenda 2030 and the role that the private sector shall undertake in the years to come.

The all-female panel engaged in a really lively conversation with the moderator, who led the discussion over several relevant topics, such as sustainable supply chains, SDG goal n.12, the role of social entrepreneurs to bridge the gap between public and private sector, the concepts of circular economy and sustainable financing. Their contributions made the public think differently about sustainability, and sparked an engaging debate.

Thanks to this event, the Environmental Committee has gained further visibility and legitimacy in leading the debate on sustainability at the Graduate Institute. In particular, this event was key for us in bringing the Swiss Sustainability Week to the Graduate Institute’s attention. We were also very impressed by the participation of many professionals to this event. In the public there were many employees of UNEP, WTC and other IOs based in Geneva.

It was inspiring to see that a student-led initiative could bring together very different individuals all sharing the same passion for sustainability and the same concerns for our future existence on this planet. At the aperò offered after the event the participants had the chance to further discuss their ideas and express their thoughts together with some of the guest speakers, who stayed to answer some extra questions.

Chasing Ice: Film and Panel

Chasing Ice: Film and Panel


On March 22nd, as an extension of the Swiss Sustainability Week, the EC organised a screening of the award-winning documentary ‘Chasing Ice’, followed by a panel discussion and wine reception. Stunning and powerful imagery, interesting panelists and free wine were the order of the day.

‘Chasing Ice’ is the story of one man’s mission to change the tide of history by gathering undeniable evidence of our changing planet through The Extreme Ice Survey project. A bold photographer by the name of James Balog began deploying revolutionary time-lapse cameras across the brutal Arctic to capture a multi-year record of the world’s changing glaciers.

The discussion was an excellent opportunity for students to increase their knowledge of Climate Change and glaciology with a fascinating panel of experts. The panelists were:

  • Michael Zemp, Glaciologist, Director of the World Glacier Monitoring Service
  • Cédric Dupont, Professor, International Relations/Political Science, IHEID
  • Anna Brach, Senior Programme Officer in the Emerging Security Challenges Programme, head of the Human Security Cluster, GCSP

The topics tackled include:

  • Scientific evidence of climate change and its limitations.
  • International negotiation and the discourse in the security sector
  • Scientific data in international negotiation processes
  • Difficulties in effectively communicating the urgency of climate issues to the public

EC Snowshoeing Trip!

EC Snowshoeing Trip!


Unsatisfied with the winter in Geneva, just days before the Siberian cold hit the Lake Geneva shoreline, the EC decided to organise a trip to the nearby Jura to experience the Swiss winter as it had been promised to all those coming from near and afar to study together at the Institute.

A week later, after winter had finally come and delivered unimaginable amounts of snow to most of Europe, a group of 13 people gathered on Saturday morning at Gare Cornavin to spend a day wandering through the winter landscape of St-Cergue in the Jura near Nyon, just an hour away from Geneva.

As expected, we arrived on time in the small town of St-Cergue and made our way to the local tourism office to pick up the snowshoes. After a short explanation that we should basically follow the pink poles, and some initial troubles with a faulty snowshoe that had to be replaced, we were on our way. The route first led to the peak of Fruitières de Nyon, a rough 300m climb from St-Cergue, where we had an extended break to air out our sweaty hair and replenish our blood sugar with some Swiss chocolate and cookies.

After another small climb, the route then continued for about 4km in a smooth decline to the train station of La Givrine. Although most of the landscape was covered in cloud-like fog formations, and rough winds on the peak made the snowfall come in sideways, the sky opened up towards the end, giving a calm touch to our descent to La Givrine.

The 8km hike through fresh snow had taken longer than we had anticipated, so we decided to hitchhike back to St-Cergue instead of finishing the round trip. A hot fondue with wine and tea in one of the rustic restaurants in St-Cergue rounded off the day perfectly, before we boarded our Geneva-bound train and left the mountains behind us, now a mere memory of winter.

Swiss Sustainability Week!

Swiss Sustainability Week!

Next week the Environmental Committee is putting sustainability at the center of attention at The Graduate Institute!

Swiss Sustainability Week is a Swiss-wide effort to discuss and find solutions to environmental and sustainability issues. It is internationally acknowledged by the Clinton Global Initiative University and has received, among others, the International Sustainable Campus Network Award for Excellence in Student Leadership.

Check out all our upcoming events below, and we hope to see you participate in this Swiss-wide effort to promote sustainability in our daily lives!

Monday 12th March:

Scoop: Insect Tasting
12.00-13.30 in front of the cafeteria

SCOOP is back for the Spring semester with a few surprises! To take matters up a few notch on the excitement level, we bring to you an ‘insect tasting’. High in protein, insects come with a low carbon footprint and resource requirement.


Tuesday 13th March:

Movie Screening: An Inconvenient Sequel
18.00-20.00 @ A2

After a little bit more than a decade, Al Gore’s is following up on his documentary An Inconvenient Truth (2006) with the documentary An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power (2017). The sequel explores the progress made to tackle climate change by following Vice President Gore as he travels the world to persuade leaders to invest in renewable energy and to build an international coalition to confront the greatest challenge humanity is facing.


Scoop: Insect Tasting
12.00-13.30 in front of the cafeteria


Wednesday 14th March:

Bike Tour: To Local Markets of Geneva
14.30-17.00, Regstration Required

Are you interested by a nice bike ride while learning about local, fresh, second choice or in bulk products? –  Embark with us for a bike ride of some essential places in Geneva!
We will finish the tour with a local apero on us!

Follow the link above to find out more!​


Thursday 15th March:

Photo Contest and Exhibition
18.00 @ Picciotto Common Room

The EC brings to you a photo contest and exhibition on the theme “Natural Habitats – Celebrate Diversity”. The entries will be displayed in the Hall Kogler on 15th March, and judged on the basis of the votes received through a ballot voting. The most popular shots will be announced in the evening in the Picciotto Common Room, where the winners will receive their much-deserved prizes.

To participate, send your entries to 


Friday 16th March:

DIY Workshop with Apidae
10.00-11.30 @ Picciotto Common Room

Join us for this exclusive and free Do-It-Yourself workshop with the NGO Apidae and learn how to make skincare and cosmetic products with beeswax!
Spaces are limited to 30 people, so be sure to sign up with an email to


Panel Discussion: “The Private Sector and Sustainability: A New Way Forward?”
12.15-14.15 @ A1B

This event will discuss the role of the private sector in achieving sustainable development and investigate future trends in this field. With participation from exceptional guests from the private and public sector, we will investigate the role of multinationals, entrepreneurs and international organisations in the years to come.

Keynote Speech: Nikhil Seth, United Nations Assistant Secretary-General

Find out more about our other excellent speakers by following the link above!


Thursday 22nd March:

Movie Screening & Panel Discussion: “Chasing Ice”

18.15-20.15 @ S8

As an extension of the Swiss Sustainability Week, the EC presents to you the screening of the award-winning documentary ‘Chasing Ice’, followed by a panel discussion and wine reception. Stunning and powerful imagery, interesting panelists and free wine are guaranteed!
More information next week!

Swiss Sustainability Week – Photo Contest

Swiss Sustainability Week – Photo Contest

Have you been to some spectacular destinations during the holidays?

Or you just happen to live in the most magical place on Earth?

Do you have some pictures that need to be shared with the world?

If your answer is yes don’t miss the chance to participate to the EC photo exhibit during the Swiss Sustainability Week!

This year’s theme is “Natural Habitats – Celebrate Diversity” and it is super easy to participate.

Send one picture, together with your details and a working email address to We will accept submissions from February 26th to March 9th at midnight. The pictures should not contain any man-made structures or be edited in any way.

The participants will have their photos displayed at the Graduate Institute in Kogler Hall on Thursday March 15th thorough the day and anyone can pick their favourites by casting their vote in a dedicated ballot box. That evening at 6:30 pm, the pictures will be moved to the Picciotto Common Room, where the final winners will be announced and will receive their awards.

As always, we will be waiting for you with snacks and drinks to relax and unwind after another long day!

Chasing Coral – Movie Screening

Chasing Coral – Movie Screening


On the 12th of December 2017, the EC hosted its second movie screening of the academic year. Around twenty students gathered to watch the Netflix Original documentary Chasing Coral, produced and directed by Jeff Orlowski, and released in July 2017.

The documentary features a team of divers, photographers and scientists set out on a journey to document the disappearance of the world’s coral reefs. The documentary provides viewers with a series of alarming facts about a problem that, for most, seems to be “out of sight, out of mind”. There is no doubt that the disappearance of the world’s corals is a result of global climate change, the film argues: 93% of the rise in temperatures is absorbed by the oceans, thus making the seas the locus of the most indisputable damage. The majority of the documentary focuses on the gravity of the issue; since Australia’s massive Great Barrier Reef lost nearly a third of its coral in 2016, there is a constant sense of urgency as documenting the disappearance of corals is, in fact, a race against time. This seemed appropriate to many students, since the most pessimistic predictions indicate that the disappearance of coral reefs could mean the collapse of the whole global ecosystem.

Once the documentary ended, students gathered around some fruit and snacks, as well as some locally brewed biological beer produced in the neighbouring Pays de Gex (France), to discuss its content and share their thoughts. During these discussions, many students highlighted their disappointment in the documentary ending on an upbeat note (by asserting the possibility of restoring coral life through changes in human behaviour), especially after portraying the issue with the appropriate amount of urgency. Overall, there was consensus regarding the spectacular images shown in the documentary (thus showing the Chasing Coral team reached their primary goal of documenting the impact of climate change on corals through photography), and everyone left the screening more aware of the issues our oceans are facing due to climate change.

Trip to Environmental House

Trip to Environmental House


As one of its initiatives aimed at giving Graduate Institute students closer insights into global environmental issues and careers in sustainability, the Environmental Committee last week organized a visit to the International Environment House. The Environment House, just twenty minutes by tram from Maison de la Paix, gathers 22 UN organizations and 19 non-governmental organizations under one roof, all striving for a more sustainable world.

Ever since the 1960s, leading organisations in the struggle for environmental protection have been coming to Geneva to establish their headquarters, secretariats, or offices. The objective of our visit was to learn more about some of the subjects they deal with, as well as about the day-to-day work in the field of environment and sustainability.

After being kindly welcomed by the coordinator of the Geneva Environmental Network, we were given a short introduction about the International Environment House and the ecosystem of environmental organisations in Geneva. Three UN Environment professionals gave us insights into their work, drawing a fascinating picture of the incredible diversity of topics which the broad issue of sustainability encompasses. One of them explained to us the intricacies of carbon pricing, green fiscal policies, and the ways in which UN Environment endeavours to facilitate the transition to an inclusive green economy.

Another senior professional gave us an understanding of the role of natural resources and the environment in conflict and peacebuilding – an often overlooked issue.  He elaborated on how severe environmental degradation can be both a cause and a consequence of conflict, and how its management can be used as a tool in reconciliation. Most interestingly, he showed us astonishing pictures and footage from some of his missions. For instance, in Colombia he encountered disastrous deforestation and  mercury contamination caused by illegal mining during the civil conflict.

The final presenter, a Program Officer from the UN Environment Chemicals and Health Branch, illustrated to us how sound management of chemicals and waste is integrated into all 17 SDGs. He is currently responsible for the improvement of cross-sectoral governance for the sound management of chemicals at national and local levels. The work of his Branch, at the intersection between political processes and economic interests, has managed over more than a decade to significantly influence national development plans and strategies on that issue.

It was fascinating to be shown, in just one afternoon, a patchwork of so many different ramifications of environmental degradation, along with the strategies used to deal with them. Hearing professionals who have been active in environment and sustainability for many years tell us about their concrete experiences in the field and explaining to us the issues they deal with on a daily basis was inspiring, and certainly particularly valuable for students exposed to new ideas and perspectives on their own environment related research at the Graduate Institute.

Living and studying in International Geneva has many benefits, and being able to so directly access such an incredible pool of knowledge and experience in the field some of us feel most strongly about is most definitely one of the greatest of them.