Here’s a clue: the coronavirus. It’s no surprise that most Swiss companies in the news in 2020 have something to do with the biggest story of the year – the pandemic.
This content was published on December 18, 2020 – 15:00
For a few weeks in 2020, it was possible to go a day without mentioning Covid-19. It was at the end of January when thousands of people gathered (without masks) in Davos to talk about a better kind of capitalism at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum and we wrote stories on how Swiss companies were preparing for this strange new virus that was spreading in China. .
The idea that this virus could disrupt our lives here in Switzerland seemed far away. That changed on March 17 when the Swiss government shut down public life as the virus crossed Europe’s borders.
There are no winners in this pandemic but there are companies that have ridden its wave and others that have drowned in its wake. At the end of the year, here is an overview of the Swiss companies that have captured the attention of swissinfo.ch readers in our ten languages.
1. Without Profit Prospects, Big Pharmaceuticals Are Ignoring New Infectious Diseases – One of the most widely read articles in any language, history has revealed how the decision of big pharmaceutical companies to avoid infectious diseases in favor of more lucrative areas has left gaping holes in the fight against epidemics like the one caused by the new coronavirus.
Since then, companies have desperately tried to catch up. Roche has found a niche in Covid-19 testing, but Novartis’ high hopes for hydroxychloroquine have been dashed. It remains to be seen whether the pandemic will be a real wake-up call for the industry.
2. Responsible business initiative rejected at the polls – Ten years of work, it is not surprising that the vote of November 29 has attracted a lot of attention far beyond Swiss borders. The German version was the most widely read story of multinationals in the language. Before the vote, readers wanted to know why companies fear the initiative, why there are so many multinationals in risky sectors in Switzerland, and how the initiative compares to the laws of other countries.
3. Why the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine deal in Switzerland is risky – It’s not exactly a Swiss company, but Boston-based biotech company Moderna announced it was setting up an office in Basel just as it signed a vaccine deal with the Swiss government. Moderna has also put Swiss chemicals company Lonza in the spotlight after reaching a deal to expand vaccine manufacturing. The story was also one of the most read in Spanish, Portuguese and Japanese.
I wrote that the deal was risky because it called into question Switzerland’s commitment to equitable vaccine distribution. What changed? Here’s our latest story on how the vaccine rush is leaving millions behind.
4. Is Venezuela’s gold a handicap for Switzerland? – Amid the pandemic, tensions have mounted over how to eradicate illegally mined gold that travels to Switzerland, home to many large gold refineries. The history of Venezuela has been read the most in Spanish, with stories of how the pandemic is leading to an increase in illegal mining in Peru and a rare interview with the CEO of refiner PX Precinox, Philippe Chave.
In August, pressure mounted on the Swiss refinery Valcambi over gold bought from traders in Dubai. The company continues to deny the supply of “dirty” gold and is now taking action against the NGO that made the allegations. To be continued in 2021.
5. “In Indonesia, palm oil is more important than watchmaking for Switzerland‘- In June, my colleague Anand Chandrasekhar spoke with the Indonesian ambassador to Switzerland about a referendum launched against a free trade agreement which critics say undermines efforts to stop the havoc environmental effects caused by palm oil. The referendum is expected to be voted on in March 2021.
6. Nestlé struggles to convince critics of infant formula – One of the most widely read in Arabic, Russian and Japanese, it reviewed Nestlé’s plans to diversify its formula milk offerings to fill nutritional gaps, especially in older infants. Critics say the new products are just a marketing ploy.
seven. Colonialism: how Swiss multinationals look to the world – Beyond the pandemic, 2020 was also defined by taking into account racism and colonial ties. My colleague Andrea Tognina examined how Swiss multinationals benefited from colonialism even though the country was not technically a colonial power. A few months ago, researchers discovered that the city of Zurich benefited from the slave trade, especially in the 18th century.
8. Why the millions of Nestlé to protect an African forest could turn against you – Chocolate makers have found themselves on the defensive against the cocoa supply in West Africa in 2020. Companies like Nestlé and Barry Callebaut have made noble commitments and invested millions to end deforestation and work children, but progress has been slow. A major study found that the situation of children in cocoa growing areas had even worsened over the past decade.
9. Pandemic shakes already vulnerable antibiotics market – As we battle the coronavirus, another pandemic is looming that has received little attention. Most of the big pharmaceutical companies have abandoned the development of new antibiotics because it is not profitable. In July, a coalition of big business created a $ 1 billion fund for antibiotics, but some say it is just a band-aid and does not solve the underlying problems in the antibiotics market.
ten. Can commodity traders take control of their soybean supply chains?? – The answer: it’s complicated. Big commodity traders like Glencore and Bunge are trying to trace their soybean purchases to Cerrado to avoid deforestation. But as my colleague writes, the incentives for farmers to produce sustainable soybeans simply do not exist.
There were a few honorable mentions.
- By far the most widely read story in Arabic was of Swiss parents suing French drug maker Sanofi for failing to warn them about the risks of taking their drug Depakine during pregnancy.
- In Chinese and Spanish, the news that Novartis had settled corruption lawsuits in the United States also caused a stir.
- Our Portuguese readers have followed the latest pesticide news, including an investigation into the Swiss agribusiness Syngenta’s export of banned pesticides to Brazil.
- And finally, in Russian, watchmaking, especially a story about Tudor, was by far the most read article.
Do you think we missed any stories? Are there any stories we should be looking at in 2021? Send me a message: [email protected]
Thanks for reading and wishing you a safe and happy vacation.