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What is a Swiss multinational company and what’s their role in the economy?

Switzerland is home to big players in the raw materials, food and chemicals industries. The alpine country boasts one of the world’s highest concentrations of multinational headquarters. You might wonder: where does its attractiveness come from?

Switzerland offers many advantages to large businesses: economic stability, a strong financial sector, qualified workers, a geographic location at the heart of transport networks – and an advantageous tax system and flexible regulations.

With more than 500 companies active in the sector, the small Alpine nation is a leading global platform for trade in raw materials, such as petrol, metals, minerals, and agricultural products. Switzerland is home to the headquarters of the sector’s world leaders — Vitol, Glencore, Trafigura, Mercuria, and Gunvor — which alone employ 180,000 people around the world and are active in dozens of countries across all continents.

If there is a Swiss trading tradition that dates back to the first half of the 19th century, the country has also recently attracted several large traders thanks to a “campaign of seduction by the authorities of certain cantons, notably Zug and Geneva, over the last 20 years,” explains Paul Dembinski, an economics professor at the University of Fribourg. Today, these sprawling multinationals are among Switzerland’s largest businesses.

Some of these large businesses are more exposed than others to the risk of violating human rights or environmental norms. The scandals revealed in recent years by the NGO Public Eye have, for example, implicated subsidiaries of Glencore, Lafarge Holcim and Syngenta in Africa, South America and Asia.

Civil society organisations want to see multinationals take responsibility for their actions as well. A proposal, called the ‘responsible business’ initiative, comes before Swiss voters on November 29, 2020. It seeks to make Swiss companies accountable for their business activities abroad that threaten human rights and the environment.
--- is the international branch of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SBC). Its role is to report on Switzerland and to provide a Swiss perspective on international events.

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About Swissinfo
SWI – the international service of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SBC). Since 1999, has fulfilled the federal government’s mandate to distribute information about Switzerland internationally, supplementing the online offerings of the radio and television stations of the SBC. Today, the international service is directed above all at an international audience interested in Switzerland, as well as at Swiss citizens living abroad.
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1 comment

  1. usama Tariq

    Its so hard and impossible to get into the Swissland. I always wish to get there for prospect in my life. But, conditions are so arduous for non-EU states and specially, for third world countries like Pakistan. Anyhow, maybe in future I get opportunity to work there no matter what would be the conditions.

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