Exemplary student with practical experience

Nils Spycher was the second-best student in his year at the Graduate School of Climate Sciences and was awarded a "2023 Oeschger Young Scientist's Prize". He now supports companies in calculating their ecological footprint.

The transition from studying to working life could not have been smoother for Nils Spycher - just a little earlier than for most other students. After completing his bachelor's degree, the young economist was looking for an internship and came across the Bern-based company reCIRCLE, which replaces disposable packaging with reusable, high-quality, affordable and more ecological reusable packaging in the catering industry. What began as an internship evolved into much more, with Nils ultimately completing his Climate Master's degree while working concurrently: he worked 60% and more at reCIRCLE and rose to become Co-Project Manager for Internationalisation and Sustainability. At the same time, he also did his best in his studies and graduated second best in his year at the Graduate School of Climate Sciences at the University of Bern.

A remarkable feat indeed! Yet, the '2023 Oeschger Young Scientist's Prize' winner humbly remarks: "It took me one and a half times as long as planned to complete my Master's degree."

Ideal combination found

Nils Spycher's interest in climate and environmental issues dates back to his secondary school days  - but also in economics and maths. So he decided to study economics at the University of Bern and completed his bachelor's degree with a minor in sustainable development. For a Master's degree, he then looked for a programme that focused on scientific work and where the sustainability aspect also played an important role. "I found the ideal combination for me in the Climate Master's programme," says Nils Spycher, "the interplay between business and climate really appealed to me."

Nils notes that about a third of his courses were in areas beyond climate economics.He attended lectures in climatology and meteorology, but also in the social sciences. However, the connection between climate and economics was at the centre of his studies. This was also the case with his Master's thesis. Together with his supervisor at university and his boss at work, he devised a project that brought theory and practice together in the best possible way: he investigated the surcharge people are willing to pay for  food delivery where reusable packaging is collected from their homes.

"I wanted to calculate the willingness to pay for an ecological good for which there is no direct market," says the newly qualified climate economist. He used the contingent valuation method as a theoretical tool and conducted a survey of around 200 customers of home delivery companies. The survey results were somewhat disheartening from an environmental standpoint: The majority of respondents were not willing to pay more than one franc for the pick-up service. Too little to cover the costs of such a service. That’s why the additional service that Nils Spycher would have liked to create for his employer has been put on ice at reCIRCLE for the time being.

Promoting climate protection in the economy

After completing his Master's degree, Nils Spycher started looking for a new job. "I wanted to work in a place," he says, "where environmental aspects such as life cycle assessments are at the forefront." An area in which many graduates are looking for a job today, as Spycher found out. Graduates from different fields of study apply to the sustainability departments of large companies such as the Swiss railway company SBB. In such a competitive landscape, how advantageous is a Climate Master's degree? "You can definitely find a job with this degree," says the winner of a "2023 Oeschger Young Scientist's Prize".

He himself recently joined the Swiss climate protection company myclimate, where he helps companies to calculate their ecological footprint. Incidentally, his predecessor in this position was also a graduate of the Graduate School of Climate Sciences at the University of Bern.

(February 2024)