Our Editor-in-Chief, Ana Grujovic, spoke with Mr. Subilia, Director General of the Geneva Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Services (CCIG) about the role and the future of chambers’ work. Mr. Vincent Subilia also serves as the member of the General Council of the World Chambers Federation.

In his interview, he emphasized that sustainable development has long been a theme for the CCIG: In 2021, despite the ongoing pandemic, we have launched a new service to help our Members analyse their business in terms of sustainability, identify those areas where they can change their processes and then implement the changes. 

  1. The Geneva Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Services was founded in 1865. It is the third oldest Chamber in Switzerland. How has the role of CCIG changed over time?

The founder of the CCIG declared, in his opening speech, that the purpose of the new Chamber was to “to enlighten the Cantonal and Federal governments with its information and to formulate requests and suggestions (…) it will also have to disseminate our principles of free enterprise throughout Switzerland.”

Today, free enterprise is no longer an issue – at least within the Swiss borders! – but the Chamber’s role as the voice of businesses remains. In addition to this macro-economic dimension, the Chamber has developed services tailored specifically to the community of its Members.

2. To what extent have the activities of CCIG been changed due to the COVID-19 crisis?

The Covid crisis has led us, as other businesses, to transfer many of our activities online. However, I am delighted to report that we nonetheless managed to implement all the new services we had on our to-do list for 2020, such as the virtual marketplace for our Members.

We have also set up a team dedicated to assist our companies in relation to the crisis, e.g. questions regarding temporary layoffs, and developed on our website a sections which is constantly updated with the latest official information on all aspects relevant to business management. 

Acting as an accelerator, I believe that the pandemic has reinforced the resiliency and the agility of the Chamber; I hence trust that we have grown stronger.

3. The COVID-19 pandemic has rapidly emphasized the need for sustainable and eco-friendly company development. In which way is CCIG supporting its members to achieve these goals?

Sustainable development has long been a theme for the CCIG. We have been supporting for over 10 years the Diploma of advanced studies in Sustainable Management and organising seminars on that theme. In 2021, despite the ongoing pandemic, we have launched a new service to help our Members analyse their business in terms of sustainability, identify those areas where they can change their processes and then implement the changes.

In the wake of the crisis, the Chamber has further adopted a sustainable development charter to guide its day-to-day activities towards a more environmental-friendly and socially-responsible future.

Read more about chambers of commerce HERE.

4. What are the key factors of Geneva’s economic success? 

It is due to the diversity of its economic fabric, both in terms of areas of expertise and type of businesses. The canton is a leader in a number of sectors, such as banking and financial services, commodity trading, life sciences, information and communications technologies as well as aromas and fragrances. It offers a first-class economic environment, excellent infrastructure and a highly-qualified workforce supported by business-minded authorities. Although SMEs constitute the largest share of all businesses, more than 1000 multinational companies, with 140 landmark companies, have chosen to set up their headquarters on the territory of the canton. In addition, 37 international organizations, over 390 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and 179 diplomatic missions compose the international landscape of Geneva, which allows for synergies between public and private sector which cannot be found elsewhere.

5. Could you please tell us more about the digital platform

“Nos entreprises, notre avenir”, meaning « our businesses, our future » is a communications campaign which we launched at the beginning of the summer 2020 at a moment when we thought the pandemic was curbed. Its aim was to show the population how diverse businesses were, and what the true preoccupations were. We wanted to bringing entrepreneurs closer to the population. The website, which contains many facts and figures on the local economy was part of the campaign. In effect, our success was so great that we decided to carry on with the campaign until the summer of this year.

6. You have been re-elected as the member of the General Council of the World Chambers Federation. In your opinion, what can be done to further improve the exchange of experiences between chambers of commerce?

Sharing best practices, and thus leveraging the expertise of approx. 12’000 chambers across the globe, indeed feature a key factor; the World Chambers Federation plays a key role in this respect. It further allows to showcase the strength of the “chambers community” throughout the world, in conjunction with our parent institution, the International Chamber of commerce (whose Geneva office is precisely located within the premises of the CCIG, the “House of economy”).

7. In 2019, CCIG has recognized the importance of creating a better-connected network of chambers of commerce and organized the ’’Chambers Day in Switzerland’’. What were the outcomes of this event?

It was the first time binational and regional Chambers came together within one single event. It is always extremely interesting to be able to discuss with colleagues and exchange views. The speakers’ programme was devised so as to bring insights on Swiss economy as well as introduce several foreign markets. Overall, I believe participants were truly enthusiastic about this unique venture!

8. Investment and export promotion agencies, including chambers of commerce, are facing profound changes worldwide. How do you perceive the work of the chambers in the future?

It is my strong belief that the work of Chambers will, of necessity, remain the same. One feels that political circles tend to become more removed from the expectations and needs of businesses and it is of vital importance that Chambers continue to act as their mouthpiece.

In terms of services, companies – especially the smaller ones – need assistance with their digital transformation process and with becoming sustainable. Therefore, the services provided by a Chamber of commerce will answer fundamental needs.

That said, to remain the trusted partner of the business world, the value proposal of chambers always need to adapt to an evolving word, innovation and sustainable development being pivotal in this respect. I am confident that we shall achieve it, together.

Image Credit: CCIG