Circularity at heart – USM and Sustainability

Durability, versatility and timeless design are in the DNA of USM. Our products are built to last and endlessly adapt – we provide our customers with furnishings that change with them. And we hold ourselves to the very highest standards when it comes to the materials and production methods we use and the energy and emissions they produce.

Our vision – Becoming a fully circular business
With our core values and design principles already in the right place, we focus our energies where we can have most impact in the shortest time. We want to extend circularity principles beyond our products. That means adopting circularity principles throughout our company – from our product development to our manufacturing, from our communications to our supply chain, operations and the expertise of our people.
Our long-standing commitment to sustainability focuses on four aspects:

Products – Durable and circular
The longer a product lives, the less it impacts the environment. We build products that endure: versatility of function, wear-resistant materials, fine craftsmanship, reverse compatibility and timeless style all ensure that USM furniture lasts over generations. Each piece of furniture is a unique item, planned and assembled individually according to customer needs – this ensures there is minimal waste and never a surplus. We design to reconfigure – all component materials can be carefully disassembled, checked, and returned to be reassembled. Though our products can be recycled, this rarely ever needs to happen: there is a large second-hand market that USM actively supports by promoting certified second-hand partners.
Two of our product lines, which account for almost 92.2.% of our revenue, carry the Cradle to Cradle certification which is granted only after rigorous assessment of a company’s approach to energy, biodiversity, material responsibility and social fairness.

Manufacturing – Responsible and accountable
Our approach to conscious and responsible manufacturing begins with our decision to remain based in our Swiss home. All USM products are produced in the factory in Münsingen, just outside Bern in Switzerland, where the family business originated. Our manufacturing processes are carefully built around the goals of maximum safety, energy efficiency and almost total recyclability at every stage. Nearly all of our chrome used is trivalent chrome which is much less harmful to the environment than conventional hexavalent chrome. The powder coating is manufactured in state-of-the-art facilities without the use of solvents or heavy metals such as lead.

People – Social fairness and diversity
Caring about people and their work culture makes both moral and economic sense for a company that prizes quality as we do. Respect for human rights is engrained in our culture. Work environments are characterised by mutual esteem and tolerance, gender pay equality, diverse and barrier-free offices. We maintain our culture of welcoming ideas for the business from every area of the company. We invest into the next generation of skilled engineers and designers. We actively encourage professional development and support employee health and wellbeing. All this results in an above-average employee loyalty and an exceptionally low fluctuation rate. The average time of employment at USM internationally is 11.5 years (15.5 years at Swiss headquarter).

We will always look for ways that we can support the wider community: The not-for-profit charitable organization FONDATION USM promotes and supports individuals and organisations in both fields, culture and science around the world. Among the projects are the «HUE+MAN Design Competition», that spotlights emerging designers of colour, and the «USM Design Grant» awarded annually to art & design students to promote innovation.

We are rated ‘gold’ for social fairness by the Cradle to Cradle Institute.

Emissions – Zero as soon as possible
We recognise the immediate need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We committed to the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi), an ambitious climate action partnership in line with the Paris Agreement. Our progress contains photovoltaic panels on roof of manufacturing facilities. 73% of electricity used in Münsingen comes from renewable sources. Introducing biomass has eliminated our reliance on heating oil. LED lighting and electric cars in our company car fleet are self-evident.

We still have a lot to do. Based on the results of our first carbon audit, we will use a science-based process to decide where we can have the most impact, fastest.

Want to know more? Go deeper and read our 2020–21 sustainability report.