Labelling high-quality Swiss products with the crossbow

Interview with National Councillor Ruedi Lustenberger, President SWISS LABEL

Current Concerns: What is the objective, the idea behind SWISS LABEL?

National Councillor Ruedi Lustenberger: SWISS LABEL was founded nearly 100 years ago. In the difficult period during the First World War, the question was how the Swiss economy could be strengthened. The conclusion was that Swiss quality and the products which have their origin in our country should be labeled. They took then the crossbow as a signet which stands for a well-fortified, strong and independent Switzerland. It has established itself well over the first decades. As time went by it was no longer developed further and thus it disappeared more or less.

And now we can experience a revival?

Yes, for about 10 years we have been witnessing a veritable renaissance of SWISS LABEL. For many companies it seems to be a real need to label their high-quality Swiss products with the crossbow. We are very much in demand and are very popular with new members.

Why does the label regain importance nowadays?

The current situation with a partly negative impact of globalization and a degree of uncertainty on the business location Switzerland gives an increased importance to SWISS LABEL. And it also helps the consumers who like to buy a Swiss product, because quality and the identification of the origin Switzerland are appreciated. This leads directly to the strengthening of Swiss economy and our companies and businesses.

Which companies join in? Are these rather small businesses or large industries?

Our members are a mirror image of the Swiss economy which is dominated by the small and medium-sized enterprises. SMEs from all regions and industries of Switzerland dominate. Some large and well-known companies such as Caran d’Ache or Victorinox also take part.

What are the biggest challenges for our Swiss companies?

Currently the weakness of the Euro and a strong Swiss franc cause disadvantages in international competition. There is no longer a level playing field for us. Foreign products have become so cheap on the Swiss market that they compete with our domestic economy. A good answer is the consistent focus on quality, excellent service and the highlighting of Swiss origin, for example with our trademark, the crossbow.

What criteria must a company fulfil so that it may be entitled to the SWISS LABEL?

There are criteria relating to the production cost of a product. A certain percentage must arise in Switzerland. According to the revised trademark law, 60 per cent are required in the future for industrial products so that they can be marked with the Swiss cross. For food, 80% of the weight of raw materials must come from Switzerland. SWISS LABEL requires 10% more, i.e. 70 per cent for industrial products and 90% for the food. Additionally the company must be located in Switzerland.

What about services?

Service companies can also join in if business and management are located in Switzerland and if the services are effectively provided in Switzerland.
These percentages seem quite high.
Yes, we are aware that this is a high bar. But we made a survey among the members. The majority of members explicitly asked for high demands on the Swiss percentages. The legislator should set a reasonable minimum and everything higher may be only voluntarily. In agriculture, even 100 per cent Swiss origin are required for Swiss guarantee products.

But this is voluntary?

That must and can only be voluntary. Membership in SWISS LABEL happens of one’s own motivation, it is a completely voluntary entrepreneurial decision. The fact that we have had a strong increase in members for years clearly shows that there is apparently a high need for a public labelling of Swiss products and services with the crossbow.

Mr National Councillor Lustenberger, thank you very much for the interview.     •

(Interview Thomas Kaiser)