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How sustainable are Swiss brands perceived to be?


Publicis Communications Schweiz AG, Grownate AG and the University of St. Gallen have agreed on a cooperation in the field of "Sustainability of Brands" in order to create a well-founded scientific study on the perceived sustainability of companies. Of the three dimensions of sustainability, the study will analyze the environmental and social dimension.

The goal is to conduct a benchmarking study and qualitative case studies that examine the sustainability image of 100 selected companies from the perspective of the Swiss population. In total, 5000 people in Switzerland will be surveyed, of which 10% will be identified as experts by asking about previous experience and knowledge in the field of sustainability. In this way, two rankings are developed, which allow a comparison of the perceived sustainability from the population's point of view and an approximate expert's point of view.

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2 people in a meeting doing a qualitative interview


The companies included in the quantitative study are the result of a selection of about 700 companies, out of which 100 companies were chosen based on various criteria (advertisement spending, turnover, sector). In a two-step process, participants first select the companies that they are familiar with and on which they have an opinion regarding their sustainability. Then, participants answer detailed questions about two randomly selected companies out of the list created in the first step. Questions regarding sustainability are based on the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the environmental impacts along a product life cycle. In addition to the sustainability assessment, views on the brand personality and the overall impression of the company are also studied.


Person working on a computer


Based on multiple case studies, we illustrate how sustainability has changed the branding landscape and become an integral part of (corporate) brand communication. Rich qualitative data, including semi-structured interviews with sustainability, brand, and communication representatives of selected firms, as well as archival and visual data, will provide insights into what successful sustainability communication looks like.


Two men in a workshop putting sticky notes on the wall


The study will initially be limited to Switzerland and include B2C (main focus) as well as B2B companies. The project will focus exclusively on perceived sustainability from the perspective of different stakeholder groups (end consumer focus). The assessment of actual or objective sustainability of companies and brands is not part of this project. Core findings of the study will result in the benchmarking of 100 companies, brand- and communication strategies, and in defining and prioritizing factors that are directly relevant for a company to be perceived as sustainable in the eyes of the Swiss population.

Core Initiators

Publicis Communications Schweiz AG, Grownate AG and the University of St.Gallen have agreed on a cooperation in the field of "Sustainability of Brands" in order to create a well-founded scientific study on the perceived sustainability of companies.

«Sustainability efforts are an investment in everything.»

Peter van der Touw

«Consumer perception of what companies do on sustainability does not always align with reality. This study seeks to uncover what drives those differences.»

Prof. Dr. Judith Walls

«Sustainability will increasingly become one of the key drivers of brand value»

Prof. Dr. Sven Reinecke

«Today’s consumer loyalty to brands rests very much on relevant ESG commitments. Establishing a direct way to communicate this at the point of sale is crucial»

Dr. Willi Leimer
Forst with a river


We do our best to get your questions answered. If not, don’t hesitate to reach out to us.
What does sponsorship include?

As a sponsor, you will receive insight into our study and its results before publication, as well as access to extensive evaluations and results that will not be reflected in the final study. Potential of being part of the larger initiative longer term. One day this could be a Foundation/legal entity. Opportunity to be part of panel discussion in pre/post launch event with lectures with external experts about sustainability. Opportunity to submit questions or topics for future studies / content (in wider Publicis/Grownate initiative). Naming and logo placement of your company as sponsor in the study.

Who is the principal investigator of the study?

The University of St.Gallen with it's Institute for Marketing and Customer Insight and Institute for Economy and Ecology. The institutes are under the direction of Prof. Dr. Sven Reinecke (Executive Director, Institute for Marketing & Customer Insight) and Prof. Dr. Judith Walls (Director Institute for Economy and the Environment, Chair for Sustainability Management).

Who/What is the target market for the study?

We would like to represent the consumer landscape in Switzerland with this study.

Where and how will the study be published? 

The current plan is to publish the study in a Swiss business newspaper in spring 2023. At the moment, however, no further details can be given, and the exact date is also still unknown. However, the study will be incorporated into further studies and surveys by the University of St. Gallen.

Will 100% of sponsor funds be used for the study?

The sponsorship funds will be used for various measures around this initiative. This includes communication measures, events, expert reviews, survey panels, etc.

Is a longitudinal study planned?

With this study, we would like to start a long-term initiative that will probably publish studies at regular intervals. The frequency with which these studies will be published is currently unclear.

How neutral is this study?

In research, the term neutrality implies that an inquiry is free of bias or is separated from the researcher's perspectives, background, position, or conditioning circumstances. Furthermore, sponsors have no influence on our study.

Support the realization of this report as a neutral sponsor by donating CHF 20'000 & help companies communicate more and efficiently in terms of sustainability.

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