Vontobel’s corporate responsibility head leaves to focus on new Swiss sustainability body

Sabine Döbeli will concentrate on Swiss Sustainable Finance

Sabine Döbeli has left Swiss private bank Vontobel to concentrate fully on her new roles as chief executive of the new lobby group Swiss Sustainable Finance (SSF).

When SSF was launched in September 2014, Döbeli, who was Head of Corporate Responsibility at Vontobel, decided to split her duties between the two organisations. “But because things are going so well and because we have so much to do, it’s best for me to just concentrate on the task of running SSF,” she told Responsible Investor from Zurich, adding that her nine-year tenure at Vontobel ended earlier this month.

Döbeli’s replacement at Vontobel is Natalie Ernst, who until June of this year was Head of Corporate Communications at Inrate, the Swiss ESG (environment, social and governance) research firm. Ernst joined the Swiss bank in early September.

Since its launch, SSF has won over 83 backers, including virtually all Swiss banks (e.g. Raiffeisen, UBS, Credit Suisse, Sarasin and Notenstein); insurers like Suva and Mobiliar; as well as asset owners like Ethos and Nest Sammelstiftung.

According to Döbeli, one of SSF’s key goals is to win over more of Switzerland’s 2,000 pension funds to the idea of sustainable investment and educate them on how to do it.To that end, and with respect to the upcoming COP21 climate summit in Paris, SSF is holding two workshops this fall for investors on how to decarbonise their portfolios. The workshops, to be done in conjunction with the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change (IIGCC), will be held in the Swiss financial centres of Zurich and Geneva.

Also this fall, the SSF together with Swissfoundations (an association) as well as fellow sustainable investment lobby FNG, are holding a conference about a new best practice code for foundations. For the first time, the code contains a paragraph regarding sustainable investing. It is also is involved with this year’s sustainable investing conference in Zurich organised by TBLI. “So as one can see, I’m very busy these days,” said Döbeli.

Döbeli is supported by five specialists, including Jean Laville, SSF’s Deputy CEO. Laville is a former Ethos executive who now is a Partner at Swiss asset management boutique Conser Invest.

Asked whether SSF was thinking of giving sustainable investing in Switzerland an even bigger push by hiring a lobbyist for Berne, the Swiss capital, Döbeli said the organisation was currently too small: “However, it is something we are thinking about for the future, and in the meantime we are doing our best to educate the politicians in Berne about the importance of the theme.”