Bianca Pestalozzi is committed to the Greater Zurich Area. “Zurich is our home”, the General Manager Europe of On explained during the “GZA Perspektiven” event held on September 14 in Zurich. From the company’s base in Switzerland’s largest city, founders Olivier Bernhard, David Allemann and Caspar Coppetti have built up the manufacturer of sports shoes, sports apparel and accessories since 2010, transforming it into a global brand in the process.
On now employs 1,500 staff around the world, with an extra 65 being brought on board each month. Specifically, the company is enjoying significant growth in North America, Japan and Australia. Sales in the first half of 2022 have already topped 500 million Swiss francs, while On also completed an IPO in 2021. Presumably, the communications support provided by On shareholder and legendary ex-tennis pro Roger Federer helped in this regard, and the same goes for On cheerleaders such as the First Lady of the United States, Jill Biden, and actor Leonardo di Caprio. In fact, no emerging Swiss brand has managed to develop such mass appeal so quickly since the watch brand Swatch.
From Bianca Pestalozzi’s perspective, On has several trump cards up its sleeve thanks to its location in the Greater Zurich Area. “For us, the proximity to universities, to the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich and to other colleges is really important”, she explains, adding that: “We need this access to talent”. For employees, it is the high quality of life that really counts, with hiking trails and Alpine footpaths practically on their doorstep serving as a form of test track for On products.
The high quality of life offered by the Greater Zurich Area is especially important for foreign employees. And there are lots of them! Of the 655 employees at the Zurich site, a total of 54 nationalities are represented, according to Pestalozzi. Diversity also counts in other aspects. For example, 47 percent of employees in Zurich are female, with women also making up half of the management team.
Zurich is not only important as the headquarters of On, but also in terms of its reputation as a location for R&D activities. For example, the Sustainability Team is also based here. Moreover, On has ambitious goals in this area. “Our vision is to no longer use any fossil fuels in the development of our products”, Pestalozzi states.
There’s more: The company is aiming to make its products fit for the circular economy, even if that is a real challenge for sports shoes. Nevertheless, this has already been achieved with the Cyclon model. The used shoes are taken back and cut up in such a way that allows the material to subsequently be re-used in a new pair of shoes. The raw material here is obtained from castor beans.
And that’s not all: On shoes can even be climate-positive. The company is working with a carbon capture specialist with the aim of using the CO2 recovered in the production of ethanol, Bianca Pestalozzi explains. In turn, this is deployed as a foam in the soles of the shoes.
The proximity to research institutes and companies with extensive materials expertise based in the region is key to such innovations. In this regard, On hopes that even more firms of this kind will eventually arrive in the Greater Zurich Area.
Having grown up in Zurich, Bianca Pestalozzi has observed the city becoming increasingly global since her childhood. Now, On is playing its part in ensuring that Zurich can boast an even bigger global footprint. Staff members have only recently moved into a new location in Zurich West. Situated across 17 floors, On Labs offers space for 1,000 employees. “We will continue to grow in Zurich”, the General Manager Europe of On concludes emphatically.