Europe and Switzerland

Silage bales in the Pre-Alps, Switzerland
Photo: Gaby Allheilig

Europe and Switzerland have a special responsibility to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – not just for historical reasons. Indeed, the continent’s current ecological footprint – including greenhouse gas emissions, land use, and resource consumption – remains massive and must be addressed to achieve the sustainable development goals (SDGs).

Similarly, interactions between Europe and the global South play a key role. These interactions have significant impacts on the environment and social well-being of both sides. In particular, it is important to analyse the differences between developments in the global North and South.

Europe must also do more to adapt to global warming. Especially in mountain areas and arid regions, there is a need for sustainable, innovative solutions that are also supported by affected local populations.

Research focuses

CDE research in Europe and Switzerland accordingly focuses on implementation of the UN sustainable development goals (SDGs), with a special emphasis on policy coherence and interactions between the different targets of the 2030 Agenda. Studies particularly examine:

  • Linkages between ecological footprint reductions and aspects of sufficient lifestyles;
  • Levers of global trade and their consequences for trading partner countries and their populations;
  • The effects of different forms of transition on distinct population groups, as well as issues of equitability that arise in this respect;
  • The development and optimization of agricultural practices that are sustainable in terms of biodiversity, ecosystem services, and food systems – including particular emphasis on the involvement of concerned stakeholders.


New project: Forced-labour-free supply chains in Switzerland

supply chain challenges

The European Union (EU) plans to eradicate forced labour from supply chains feeding into its market. This is expected to have also substantial implications for Swiss businesses and their suppliers. Our new project aims to create a knowledge base for the dialogue in Switzerland on the new EU regulation.

“Missing Dollars” – a documentary on Illicit Financial Flows

Illicit financial flows (IFFs) erode the tax base of low and middle-income countries. For commodity-dependent countries, trade mispricing is a major problem that prevents them from benefitting fairly from the sale of their natural resources. Against this backdrop researchers from Switzerland, Ghana, and Laos – among them CDE scientists – engaged in a six-year research to study the IFFs associated with commodity trade mispricing and tax evasion. The Ghanaian filmmaker Fiifi Koomsom retraces this research collaboration in the documentary “Missing Dollars”.

New project: True Cost Accounting for Food in Switzerland (TRUE-COST)

woman in a grocery shop

The prices of food we see on supermarket shelves rarely reflect the real costs to the environment or human health. This is because the real costs of cheap food are “externalised”. In this new project, CDE and its partners are exploring how best to implement true cost accounting in Switzerland for a more sustainable food system.

New transit routes are reshaping Georgia

Roads, rails, ports – projects aimed at launching or expanding transit routes from Asia to Europe are mounting. In the middle of it all are the countries of Central Asia and the South Caucasus. What do the mega-infrastructure projects mean for the local populations? A research team studied this question on Georgia's west-east axis in a pilot project.

Info box
Contact Dr. Theresa Tribaldos
Partners Agroscope


CIHEAM Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Bari, Italy

ETH Zurich, Department of Environmental Systems Science

The Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE)

Graduate Institute Geneva (IHEID)

Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research UFZ, Germany

INRAE, French National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food and Environment

ISOE – Institute for Social-Ecological Research, Germany

Ukrainian National Forestry University

Umeå University, Sweden, Centre for Environmental and Resource Economics

UNESCO World Heritage Swiss Alps Jungfrau-Aletsch (SAJA)

University of Applied Sciences Kärtnen, UNESCO Chair Sustainable Management of Conservation Areas

Wageningen University, Netherlands

Ongoing key reference projects & initiatives COMMONPATHS: Transition pathways for urban sustainability

Education for Sustainable Development at the University of Bern 

Environmental policies for ecological infrastructures in rural landscapes (EMERALD)

INSPIRE – Integrated spatial planning for biodiversity conservation and human development

JUST-FOOD: Tackling inequalities on the way to sustainable food systems

OPTAIN – Optimal strategies to retain and re-use water and nutrients in small agricultural catchments

Scenarios for a sustainable food system in Switzerland

SHOWCASE - Showcasing synergies between agriculture, biodiversity, and ecosystem services

Traditional irrigation in Europe as cultural heritage (in German) 

UNESCO chair at CDE


Completed key reference projects & initiatives Catastrophic shifts in drylands (CASCADE) 

Sustainable trade relations for diversified food systems 

Time is wealth: Part-time work as a means to foster sustainable lifestyles?

NCCR North-South