The mission of the Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN) is to ensure the sustainable use of natural resources including soil, water, air, quietness and forests. It is responsible for the protection against natural hazards, safeguarding the environment and human health against excessive impacts, and conserving biodiversity and landscape quality. It is also responsible for international environmental policy.
The FOEN’s goals and duties
The Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN) is the federal centre of excellence for the environment.
In accordance with policy requirements, it pursues the following goals:
- Long-term conservation and sustainable use of natural resources (soil, water, forest, air, climate, biological and landscape diversity) and the rectification of existing impairments
- Protection of human life against excessive environmental impacts, in particular arising from noise, harmful organisms and substances, non-ionising radiation, waste and major accidents
- Protection of human life and material assets against hydrological and geological natural hazards, specifically the risks posed by floods, earthquakes, avalanches, landslides, erosion and rockfall
The FOEN fulfils the following functions in pursuit of these goals:
- It prepares the decisions necessary for a comprehensive and coherent policy on sustainable natural resource management and implements this policy. This encompasses, in particular, the sustainable use of natural resources and the protection of human life against natural hazards and the environment against excessive impacts.
- As a basis for resource management it monitors the environment and provides information about the state of the environment and the possibilities for ensuring the balanced use and protection of natural resources.
Environmental policy currently faces a range of important challenges, in particular:
- climate protection
- biodiversity conservation
- resource management
It is also important to strengthen the implementation of the existing legislation in cooperation with the cantons and to support the dialogue about the value of the environment with business and society.
As a federal centre of excellence, the FOEN is responsible for the implementation of environmental policy.
The FOEN in numbers
In 2020, the FOEN has a workforce of around 500 FTE (full time equivalent) to carry out its work. It administers a budget of approximately CHF 1.6 billion. This corresponds to around 2.2 percent of the total federal budget. Approximately 87 percent of these funds are used for subsidies and the redistribution of incentive levies (CO2 and VOC). 13 percent is spent on personnel, material and operating costs.
Organisational chart FOEN (PDF, 114 kB, 17.11.2020)In force as of 1st January 2021
1971: Creation of the Federal Office for Environmental Protection at a time when awareness of environmental issues was just developing.
1989: Merger with the Federal Office for Forests and Landscape Protection to form the Swiss Agency for the Environment, Forests and Landscape (SAEFL).
2006: Merger with large sections of the Federal Office of Water and Geology (FOWG) to form the present Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN).
Art on site
Since 1997 the offices of the FOEN have been located at Papiermühlestrasse 172 and Worblentalstrasse 68 in Ittigen just outside Bern. The work «Naturkonserven», created by the architect Andrea Roost and the landscape designer Ernst Samuel Eigenheer, stands in front of the main building P172. The oversized cans from which indigenous wild plants grow are intended as food for thought along the lines of «replacing or preserving nature»?
High resolution photos of the FOEN main building
FOEN (JPG, 1 MB, 06.04.2007)Main building
Last modification 26.09.2018