Sustainability is not a project, but a corporate attitude that finds expression in every aspect of Vitra’s work. This is evident in whom Vitra employs (43 nationalities, 41% women in management positions, Group Management that is two-thirds female) and in how Vitra supports its employees (such as with a company daycare centre). It is visible in how Vitra designs the campus and renders it accessible to the public (for example the Oudolf Garten). It is manifested in how Vitra develops and manufactures its products, in where Vitra sources its raw materials and in how Vitra organises its supply chain. It is attested by the manner in which Vitra operates its buildings on the campus (with energy from hydropower), and how it regards the latest insights into the impact of corporate action as opportunities for further development. Vitra’s headquarters are in Birsfelden, Switzerland. The company has production facilities in Weil am Rhein (Germany), Szombathely (Hungary) and a plant in Sugito (Japan) for the Asian market.
The close and long collaboration with Charles and Ray Eames has shaped Vitra in significant ways. Carrying on the tradition of thinking espoused by the designer couple, the company places an emphasis on the durability and longevity of products as part of its contribution to sustainable development, and avoids stylistic trends. This is most clearly exemplified by the classic designs in Vitra’s portfolio, whose lasting functionality and timeless aesthetic keep them up to date and in active use for decades. They retain their value on the secondary market, changing owners and perhaps even ending up in a collection. Furnishings that meet the highest functional and aesthetic standards bring added value and enrichment to human living and working environments. As integral elements of its overall development, production and sales processes, Vitra aims to leave the smallest possible ecological footprint, anticipate scenarios at the end of the product’s lifespan, and promote healthy and sustainable working conditions not only within the company, but also amongst partners and suppliers. The company’s relationships with employees, partners, architects, suppliers and customers are extremely important and should be lasting, as well as beneficial to all parties involved.
To develop products that last as long as possible, short-lived trends are avoided and non-essential details are omitted. Aesthetic longevity cannot be achieved without high-quality design, superior manufacturing methods and premium materials. This is manifested in a ten- or thirty-year warranty for selected designs, instead of the usual two.
The end of a product’s life is always a sad occasion. To ensure that Vitra products remain in circulation for as long as possible, they are designed to make reutilisation easy. Repairs, take-back programmes and extended warranties promote preservation. And in Vitra Circle Stores, used Vitra products are repurchased, restored and returned to use.
As a result of its procurement policies and compliance with official certification programmes, Vitra ensures that the materials purchased meet its self-imposed conditions in regard to human rights and environmental standards. The company’s products and materials are continuously analysed, and its methods are monitored and evaluated by independent external institutions. 46% of Vitra’s suppliers are from Germany, 97% from Europe. As a globally active company, Vitra distributes its products to customers all over the world in the most resource-efficient way possible.
Vitra engages in a multitude of cultural activities above and beyond its business operations. A substantial portion of revenues is invested in preserving the cultural heritage of design and architecture. Vitra supports various institutions around the globe. Regular beneficiaries include the Eames Foundation, which is devoted to preserving the Eames House in Pacific Palisades, California, the Alvar Aalto Foundation in Finland, and the Barragan Foundation based in Switzerland.The Vitra Design Museum, founded in 1989, is a major focus of the company’s cultural commitment. It is not a company museum, but an internationally renowned, independent institution dedicated to the research and presentation of design and architecture. The Vitra Design Museum organises exhibitions, workshops and guided architectural tours. Its holdings include one of the world’s largest collections of industrial furniture design, and it administers and maintains the estates of several major designers. It also produces publications on a broad spectrum of design and architectural topics. The diverse activities of the Vitra Design Museum have earned it worldwide respect as a model for private initiatives and independent institutions in the cultural sector. Furthermore, the Vitra Campus is a place where design objects and architectural works are created and maintained, making topics of design, architecture and art accessible to the public. And the ongoing development of the Vitra Campus reveals the company’s long-term commitment to its location in Weil am Rhein.
Vitra has long advocated an ecological and responsible use of land. On the Vitra Campus in Weil am Rhein, paved roads and building footprints are counterbalanced by unsealed surfaces and plantings. Large natural flower meadows stretch between the buildings, particularly in the northern part of the campus, establishing a link to the agricultural landscape and vineyards of the neighbouring Tüllinger Hill.
Vitra devotes particular attention to work conditions and environments that are inspiring and therefore productive, and also strives to offer healthy and future-oriented employment relationships for all employees. Vitra is convinced that the best results are achieved through team work, collaborating with colleagues of diverse education or training, backgrounds and interests. The goal is to allow for differences, while emphasising the uniting characteristics. Vitra promotes life-long learning and advancement within the company, giving talented and motivated employees long-term perspectives. Interest and curiosity in the company’s cultural engagement is viewed as a foundation for Vitra’s corporate success. To promote identification with Project Vitra, employees can regularly take part in activities related to the themes of design and architecture.
Specialists of both sexes with diverse educational backgrounds, from all over the world, work together on different tasks. Vitra encourages social interaction during working hours and leisure time – for example, employees and their families are offered reduced admission to cultural activities sponsored by the company. The cafeterias with a healthy range of food and beverages are designed as lively places of communication, and employees also regularly come together during staff parties, visits to the museum, concerts at Vitra Campus Night or family trips to the campus on Sundays for coffee and cake at the VitraHaus Café.