2021 Financial Year

Dear reader

The 2021 financial year was particularly challenging for two reasons. Firstly, SQS was exposed to the ongoing uncertainties of the pandemic. Secondly, the termination of negotiations on an Institutional Framework Agreement with the European Union (EU), which was announced in May, led to considerable uncertainty regarding our certification services for the medical technology sector.

SQS may claim to have anticipated both developments in good time and reacted appropriately. The practices of working from home and of remote assessments and audits, which were introduced under great time pressure in 2020, proved their worth in 2021. There were scarcely any postponements or clients lost due to the pandemic. On the contrary, as it was a recertification year for our main standards ISO 9001, ISO 14001 and ISO 45001, we recorded an extremely gratifying operating result. 

However, our objective was not limited to maintaining “normal operations”. Under these challenging conditions, we worked even more rapidly, were more benefit-focused and boosted compliance in the area of accredited products– our core business. The improvements to our internal controls and structures were recognised by the Swiss Accreditation Service during the re-accreditation in spring of 2022.

Exploit difficult situations to further develop the organisation: this maxim also guided us in terms of the Institutional Framework Agreement. Thanks to the public affairs work that was institutionalised in 2020, we were close to the political process. We were therefore not unprepared for the termination of negotiations. Within a few months, we established a German subsidiary, to be able to continue serving the particularly affected medical technology sector as a certification body for the EU area.

The pandemic and the collapse of the Institutional Framework Agreement increased public awareness of the value which the testing and certification of standards has for the functioning of a complex and inter-linked society. In this context, SQS has become a voice that is heard in politics, business and by the media. Why us? Firstly, we are a key player in the certification system in Switzerland. Secondly, there are very few companies that know the needs of local business and its day-to-day life as well as we do. Approximately 500 of our clients are large companies employing at least 250 staff and frequently operating globally. At the same time, we look after around 6,000 small and medium-sized enterprises with fewer than 50 employees. Because our client base reflects Switzerland’s open, dynamic economy, we have a clear picture of the state of the art and possess the skills to lead our clients towards this. We are an SME serving Swiss business. This fills us with pride and is something to which we are totally committed. Thanks to our dedicated, expert employees, we shall continue to do this in the future, too. We are convinced of this!

A Grisard_grau

Andrea Grisard

Unterschrift MUF

Felix Müller

President Andrea Grisard and CEO Felix Müller

“We are an SME serving Swiss business, which fills us with pride and is something to which we are totally committed.” 

Andrea Grisard, President


The SQS Company Report provides information about the corporate, social and environmental aspects of our actions. Its structure is based on the sustainability issues of the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI). In addition to the head office in Zollikofen, reporting also includes the Italian branch office in Milan – and consequently SQS’ entire business activities. Unless otherwise indicated, all disclosures refer to the 2021 calendar year or 31 December 2021, respectively.


Value creation

The 2021 financial year was gratifying for SQS. The company achieved the highest revenue in its history – CHF 47.0 million. EBITDA was also very solid, at CHF 1.3 million. The surplus allowed us to continue building up reserves and to finance substantial investments. This is concentrated primarily in the use of Microsoft Dynamics 365 as a new solution for enterprise resource planning (ERP) and customer relationship management (CRM), the development of our subsidiary in Germany and in business development within the area of accredited certifications and other services (see below).

The positive financial result was based on the following factors: a marked client focus and high levels of client loyalty, dedicated, service-oriented and expert employees; even more rigorous cost discipline during the pandemic; the recertification cycle for our main standards ISO 9001, ISO 14001 and ISO 45001.

Financial key figures +

Financial key figures

2020 2021
Revenue (CHF) 42'393’245   47'003’435
Operating expenditure (CHF) 41'310’636 45'664’016
Personnel expenditure (CHF) 34'856’514 38'775’045
EBITDA (CHF) 1'082’609 1'339’419
Profit (CHF) 10’156  13’813
Equity ratio 47,6 % 51,3%
Equity to fixed assets ratio I 2,50 2,54


N.B.: In addition to the head office in Zollikofen, financial reporting also includes the Italian branch office in Milan – and consequently SQS’ entire business activities.

“Our core business in the area of accredited certifications shapes our company in both financial and cultural terms.”

Silvio Genovese, Head of division Products, Compliance and Accreditations

“The development of the ‘Rail and Public Transport’ sub-division as a centre of expertise means that we can offer complete certification services in Switzerland and other countries from a single source.”

Hans Jahn, Head of sub-division Rail and Public Transport

Certifications, accreditations and approvals

In 2021, SQS managed over 100 products in the area of accredited certifications and other services in its portfolio. This substantial number should not belie the fact that the majority of revenue was generated from three main standards in the area of accredited certifications: ISO 9001 (quality management), ISO 14001 (environmental management) and ISO 45001 (occupational health and safety). These are all the more important as they are often the starting point for the integration of additional standards within the framework of an integrated management system for clients and are therefore a driver of cross-selling where SQS can exploit the competitive advantage of its wide range of services.

Its core accreditation business shapes SQS in financial and cultural terms by requiring and promoting the following qualities in the company:

  • Technical expertise that is able to link the accreditation requirements with reality in individual sectors and companies
  • Excellent reliability and credibility vis-à-vis clients and the accreditation body
  • A markedly practical approach
  • Long-term thinking and action

The striking increase in the significance of the rail sector in 2021 supports our conviction that accredited certification business offers a promising future. Since December of last year, SQS ist accredited with the European Railway Industry Association for certifications in accordance with the main standard, the “International Railway Industry Standard (IRIS)”. This means that the certification in question is now Swiss. Previously, it had been dealt with through foreign partners. The reasons behind this strategic decision included expectations to this effect from stakeholders in the Swiss rail sector (SBB, Stadler Rail, Swissrail, etc.), clients’ desire for “Swissness” and the prospect of being able to serve the local market more effectively. Organisationally speaking, this increasing significance was reflected in the creation of a “Rail and Public Transport” sub-division.

Another major investment in the area of accredited certifications was the establishment of SQS Deutschland GmbH, based in Konstanz, in September 2021. Following the termination of negotiations on the Institutional Framework Agreement with Switzerland, the EU refused to update the mutual recognition of conformity assessments for medical devices. To continue serving Swiss exporters as a certification body for the EU area, SQS prepared a notification for the Central Authority of federal states for Health Protection, with regard to Medicinal Products and Medical Devices (ZLG), via its subsidiary. Notification is expected for 2023.

SQS is the holder of numerous accreditations and approvals in Switzerland and abroad. The Swiss Accreditation Service is by far the most important accreditation body ahead of the Italian body Accredia.

Link to the overview of all accreditations and approvals

New business areas

SQS is developing new fields of business for accredited certifications and other services. In 2021, the most significant activities for this purpose took place in the area of non-accredited sustainability products .

Companies’ ability to transform toward a circular economy will be crucial to whether our society can preserve its natural foundations. This means  prolonging and closing material and resource loops in order to avoid waste and harmful emissions by doing so. In view of its own expertise within the areas of environmental management, certification and assessment, this environmental necessity is also an economic opportunity for SQS. For this reason – and because the circular economy can be implemented more effectively on an international basis – SQS launched “Circular Globe” jointly with Quality Austria in 2021. This maturity assessment model and label allows the development and acknowledgement of circular organisations. The largest Swiss construction company Implenia and the iconic bag manufacturer Freitag have participated in pilot assessments for the model.

The establishment of SQS Deutschland GmbH was a further strategic step in the development of sustainability products. In developing the team, SQS opted for a manager with a great deal of experience in the verification of sustainability reports and due diligence along supply chains. In addition to the marketing of Circular Globe in Germany, the provision of these services is expected to be a core task of the new subsidiary.

“Thanks to Circular Globe, we can steadily develop our circular business models and communicate this commitment credibly to the outside world.”

Severin Boser, Head Implenia Real Estate Products

Client structure

Besides Switzerland, the most important markets for SQS are the neighbouring European countries, especially Italy and Germany. International clients benefit from our global certification service, where various locations are combined and certified using random sampling. 
Our deep roots in our domestic market and proximity to major companies operating on a global basis give us multiple insights, knowledge and ultimately the expertise to offer our clients the best possible support of their development. This expertise has a wide-ranging impact, as 94 percent of our almost 9,000 clients are micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Two-thirds have 49 or fewer employees. We reported growth among small companies in 2021. Our client base reflects the open, dynamic, competitive Swiss economy. 

On average, we have been looking after our clients for eleven and a half years, 56 percent have been using our services for more than nine years. Overall, we reported growth in cross-selling, with 17 percent of our clients having three or more certifications from SQS.


SQS ICT is based on a hybrid infrastructure. Services are outsourced where it makes economic sense and does not jeopardise our security. The use of Cloud technologies has startedwhen upgrading applications and services and will be further developed. In doing so, the process of onboarding users is highly prioritised and fully guaranteed. The future SQS system architecture is to be lean, agile and economically viable, whilst minimising risks in relation to data security and protection. The focus is still on the Microsoft suite of products with all its opportunities for integration.

“Digitalisation offers many opportunities. However, prudence is required if we are to make our networked, integrated world a better one.”

Hans-Jürg Hofer, Head of division ICT, Back-Office and Services 

Training courses and seminars

In 2021, SQS offered seminars both on-site and online. In total, it carried out 108 seminars, of which 19 were held at clients’ premises (in-house seminars) and 89 were public. Of the latter, around three-quarters were organised as webinars. An increase in participant days was recorded compared with 2020.

We constantly evaluate participants’ satisfaction as part of the quality inspections. In 2021, they rated our public seminars with an average of 4.7 out of 5 points, the highest figure in the last five years. This suggests that the large number of SQS live webinars in particular were well received. To ensure a continuous focus on client needs, we also ask participants for qualitative feedback.

Key figures – training +
Key figures – training 2020 2021
Revenue (CHF) 674’362 760’176
Number of public seminars 70 89
thereof webinars 35 68
Number of in-house seminars 25 19
thereof webinars 4 1
Number of participant days 1317 1417
Participants’ satisfaction (public seminars in Switzerland) 4,5 4,7


Partnerships and memberships

As a result of strategic considerations, partnerships and memberships are of great importance to us.

As the exclusive partner of IQNET in Switzerland, we have access to the largest global network of management system certification bodies. A stringent qualification process for partners ensures that IQNET certificates are highly regarded throughout the world. For companies operating globally, international certification offers significant added value.

SQS is also involved in around 30 organisations, associations and other stakeholder groups. As a member of the SAQ Swiss Association for Quality and the Swiss Association for Standardisation (SNV), SQS has excellent links to quality experts and plays an active role in standards committees.

As part of the development of Circular Globe, SQS entered into a strategic partnership with Quality Austria and became a member of Circular Economy Switzerland.


Supply chain

Ongoing digitalisation means that SQS purchases the majority of its products and services from the ICT sector. It also procures services in the fields of mobility, overnight accommodation, catering, buildings maintenance, event organisation, marketing, finances, legal advice and insurance. When choosing suppliers, SQS prefers to use its own clients whenever possible. It focuses on proven, long-term partnerships.



Despite the difficult circumstances throughout the pandemic, SQS was able to count on motivated and highly competent employees. Fairness is a means of expressing our appreciation of them – for example by means of equal pay for men and women. An analysis that SQS carried out in 2021 in the context of the Swiss Gender Equality Act showed that men and women receive equal pay – if their tasks and other parameters such as the number of years worked, bonuses or training and education were the same or similar. Nevertheless, there were signs that action is required. On average, women occupy fewer senior roles in the organisational hierarchy. There are no women in executive management and they account for only 18 percent in the top three management levels (according to the Swiss government’s analysis matrix).

SQS also demonstrates its appreciation of its colleagues by other means. For example, all permanently employed auditors on average benefit from 15 days of education and training. New employees receive intensive training in processes and systems to ensure that they have complete command of their specialist area and state of the art auditing techniques. SQS also facilitates support for employees in challenging situations, for example by provision of external coaching in dealing with personal issues.

As usual, a commercial apprentice was again recruited in 2021. Altogether, the head office offers three training positions for commercial apprentices.

The pandemic meant that a face-to-face Christmas gathering was impossible in 2021 and sending the usual Christmas present to employees did not seem particularly sustainable. The SQS management therefore opted to raise funds for two charitable organisations that look after children. Employees could choose to donate their personal contribution to the Theodora Foundation (Lonay/Hunzenschwil) or the SOS Children’s Village (Balerna/Bern). This resulted in a donation of CHF 10,000 in total.

“Our employees have worked even more quickly, have been even more benefit-focused in challenging conditions and have boosted compliance.”

Felix Müller, CEO

Employee survey

SQS carried out an employee survey within the framework of the Swiss Employer Award (SAA). Three-quarters of the 172 staff surveyed submitted their answers with regard to the following principal topics: their commitment, their satisfaction, the attractiveness of their employer and the likelihood of their recommending SQS to others. The answers were compared with the results of the last survey in 2018, the SAA’s sector benchmark and the SAA as a whole.

With regard to the key performance indicator, commitment, there were no significant differences to 2018 or the two benchmarks. Identification with, commitment and loyalty to SQS remained stable. The results for the other principal issues were less positive. SQS management partly explains this with circumstances during the pandemic, which made communication and interaction more difficult, and other factors. It therefore adopted the following measures, among others:

  • Strengthening internal communication (in terms of personnel and content)

  • Encouraging team building at the level of the sub-divisions

  • Closer collaboration between division, sub-division and team management by ensuring that the latter is included more consistently in the management cycle and participates in workshops, for example

  • Greater flexibility in training by introducing hybrid event forms

  • Further inclusion of independent lead auditors in team meetings and training sessions

Conditions of employment

If employed full-time, employees at the head office in Zollikofen work 42.5 hours per week on a flexitime basis. In the course of the coronavirus pandemic, we launched a remote work concept. We offer our auditors an annual working time model, which allows them to deal with fluctuations in their workload during the year autonomously and flexibly. All employees have the option of working part-time. They are entitled to at least five weeks leave per year – which is a week more than required by law. Employees aged under 20 or over 50 receive an additional five days leave. Early retirement is possible from the age of 60.



Personnel structure

SQS has 178 permanent employees and 290 independent contract staff. Female staff accounted for 48 percent of permanent employees. There were 264 auditors and 26 technical experts among the independent contract staff. Since the end of 2020, half of the SQS Board members are women.

The permanently employed auditors (including members of the executive management) are responsible for managing audits as lead auditors. The other permanent employees work at the head office in Zollikofen and the branch office in Milan. Permanent auditors are supported by independent contract staff, who exercise either lead or co-functions. External experts who have the requisite technical expertise are also called upon to audit specific standards.

Pension fund

At the end of 2021, all permanent employees were members of the SQS pension fund (PVS). We offer them an attractive pension plan with benefits far in excess of the legal minimum. Our independent contract staff are covered by their respective main employer.

Interest of 3 percent is paid on the capital of insured employees. While the conversion rate of the retirement assets was unchanged at 5.25 percent, the PSV’s funding ratio increased from 122.3 percent in 2020 to 129.8 percent at the end of 2021. 

Value preservation

SQS views its contribution to preserving or regenerating our natural foundations as an obligation and a business opportunity. It has been working with the myclimate Foundation to measure and reduce its GHG emissions footprint since 2019. The relevant results for 2021 can be read in the latest myclimate report and are summarised below. Greenhouse gas emissions were again offset entirely through the “Protection of Tanzanian Forests for Indigenous Peoples, Wildlife and the Climate” project. It ensures that indigenous land rights are protected in forests and, by doing so, reduces deforestation. This cuts the amount of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere and secures habitat connectivity for endangered wildlife. Thanks to this commitment, SQS is acknowledged as a climate neutral company by myclimate.

Sustainable transformation provides the company with a business opportunity in two respects. Firstly, SQS encourages sustainable corporate governance from an economic (ISO 9001), environmental (ISO 14001) and social perspective (ISO 45001) through its core business – the testing and certification of the three ISO main standards. This effect is heightened by the interaction of the three standards. To communicate the contribution made by its core business and its potential for sustainable development within the company and outside it more effectively, SQS made its integrated management system a key marketing term and marketing offer in 2021. Secondly, it invested in the development of new sustainability-related products for its non-accredited services (see also section “New business areas”).

“With the exception of mobility, we are very close to achieving state-of-the-art environment-friendly business management. Not less, but not more either.”

Markus Ritter, Logistics/SIBE 


The mobility concept developed by SQS promotes the minimisation of emissions from business travel. A graded allowance encourages auditors to purchase economical vehicles and, by doing so, reducing their CO2 emissions. Those who choose to do without a car and use only public transport when travelling receive the cost of a first-class GA Travelcard and have their mobility and taxi charges reimbursed. SQS pays for a SBB half-fare travel card for all permanent employees.

The experiences made during the pandemic were used to implement a permanent remote work concept for our head office team (see conditions of employment for more details). According to an internal commuter survey, our head office employees on average work remotely 57 percent of their time . Employees commuted a distance of 22,518 kilometres by bike or on foot, contributing to a reduction in CO2 emissions. 


In 2021 consumption of warm water at the SQS headquarters in Zollikofen almost halved compared with the previous year– from 65.9 to 36.1 cubic metres. Purchases of natural gas for heating and ventilation also fell compared with previous years. The downward trend in energy consumption was also apparent with electricity. This was helped by offices being used less because of lockdowns and the increase in remote work. The photovoltaic system on the roof (see photo opposite) provided 61 megawatt hours, which was fed into the network and sold.



Paper and waste

For SQS, it is important that resources are used economically, which is why we work continuously to reduce waste and the use of paper. Waste generation was down once again in 2021 compared with the previous year. 

Having amounted to 8,846 kilogrammes in 2020, waste was reduced to 8,107 kilogrammes in 2021. By opting to do away with printed communication materials almost entirely, we reduced CO2 emissions by almost 5 tonnes.

The purchase of many electronic terminals for remote work in 2020 meant that electronic waste was kept low in 2021 as well. Our smartphones are leased and are donated to the SOS Children’s Village Foundation for further use once the contract has ended.


Further information

Achievement of strategic objectives in 2021 +


Target 2021

Actual 2021

Achievement of objectives



F1 Revenue

CHF 42'042’291

CHF 47’003’435


F2 EBITDA (operating earnings I)

CHF 1'244’307

CHF 1'339’419


F3 EBITDA margin

3,0 %

2,8 %




K1 Client satisfaction auditors (scale 1-5)

Maintain 4.5



K2 Applications






P2 Technical compliance

Keep approvals, prevent suspensions and sanctions

Approvals were kept, suspensions and sanctions were prevented 


P3 Organisational compliance

Risk minimisation in a dynamic regulatory environment

No indications of non-fulfilment of organisational compliance (including breaches of independence and impartiality).


Employees, learning and development


M4 Technical expertise (scale 1-5)

Client satisfaction technical expertise aspect (maintain 4.7)



M6 Business

Organisational development and product portfolio including services in “New Business” in accordance with focus projects in 2021

Circular Globe developed and launched.
SQS Deutschland GmbH initiated.


l  Objective achieved 
l  Objective achieved in part ​​​​​​​l  Objective not achieved

Overview of the key topics +
Key topics/fields of action Definition of key topics and stakeholders affected Management approaches

Value creation:
Economic performance

  • Accreditations and approvals
  • Finances
  • Partnerships
  • Digital transformation

The disclosures include the head office, the branch office in Milan, business activities in their entirety, all permanent employees and independent contract staff as well as partners of SQS.

SQS Switzerland holds stakes in the following organisations:

  • SQS BS GmbH (100%)
  • SQS Deutschland GmbH (100%) 
  • LQS AG (100%)
  • BioInspecta (minority stake)
  • CargoSousTerrain (minority stake)

SQS is also represented on the Foundation Board of the Stiftung für Forschung und Ausbildung “Qualität” (Foundation for Research and Training “Quality”).

SQS is a not-for-profit organisation. It finances its growth independently. It is obliged by law to maintain accounts, to report on these accounts and to have them duly audited. As an accredited auditor, SQS is also subject to a vast range of requirements from the registration authorities. Processes are digitalised, where this makes sense and is efficient. Investments and cooperative ventures are managed within the scope of strategic guidelines.

Value creation:
product responsibility

  • Client satisfaction and loyalty
  • Impact of the range of services
  • Development of the range of services
  • Protection of clients’ privacy
The information relates to business activities in their entirety and to SQS clients. Clients’ wishes and their satisfaction are paramount. SQS wishes to promote its clients’ sustained success through attractive services. Consequently, the surveys on client satisfaction, client loyalty and the constant development of the range are key fields of action.

social responsibility

  • Compliance with laws, values and the Code of Conduct.
The statements relate to business activities in their entirety, to all permanent employees and independent contract staff and to other stakeholders affected. SQS has enshrined its fundamental values, namely credibility, neutrality, independence, honesty and incorruptibility, in a Code of Conduct for employees.

social responsibility

  • Employee satisfaction and loyalty
  • Education and training
  • Health and wellbeing
  • Occupational pension scheme

As a rule, the disclosures cover all permanent employees.

  • The information regarding education and training also includes independent contract staff (excluding hours spent on education).
  • The occupational pension scheme only relates to permanent employees in Switzerland.
SQS is reliant on qualified, effective and motivated employees. It attaches great value to regular education and training, the systematic detection of threats and situational measures to improve employees’ working environment as well as surveys about their satisfaction.

Value preservation:
environmental responsibility

  • Energy
  • Greenhouse gas emissions
  • Business traffic
SQS records environmental key figures for head office. The branch office in Milan and the workplaces of the independent contract staff are not covered. The greenhouse gas balance prepared in collaboration with the myclimate Foundation is based on the internationally recognised “GHG Protocol: A Corporate Accounting and Reporting Standard”. It covers all climate-relevant greenhouse gases that fall under the “operational control” of SQS. As a service provider, SQS has a relatively minor impact on the environment compared with companies in other sectors. The business traffic, energy consumption and emissions fields of action are recognised. SQS aims to mitigate any negative impacts with its mobility concept and measures to raise awareness.

Value preservation:

  • Knowledge management
The disclosures include the head office, the branch office in Milan, business activities in their entirety, all permanent employees and independent contract staff and partners of SQS. The “Work Smart by SQS” vision serves as a guiding framework for the digital working environment. SQS has a digital, self-learning knowledge management system in the shape of “Starmind”.
Stakeholders and contacts +
Stakeholders     Type of exchange Frequency
  Discussions while carrying out audits on site Annually or depending on the standard
  Survey on client satisfaction Every three years or depending on the standard
  Exchanges during seminars, sector-specific meetings and information events for clients Continuous
  SQS blog, e-newsletter Several times a year
  Seminar newsletter Several times a year
  Staff appraisal Annually
  Survey on employee satisfaction  Every two years
  Exchanges at internal educational and training events Several times a year
  Continual improvement process e-mail for the submission of suggestions for the purpose of continual improvement Continuous
Free contract staff    
  Exchanges at internal educational and training events Several times a year
  Continual improvement process e-mail for the submission of suggestions for the purpose of continual improvement Continuous
Association members    
  General Assembly Annually
  SQS blog, e-newsletter Several times a year
Association executive bodies    
  General Assembly Annually
  Board At least five Board meetings per year and monthly reporting
  Advisory council Annual advisory council meeting
  Political advisory council At least two meetings per year
  Audit Annually: main audit in spring, interim audit in autumn
  SQS blog, e-newsletter Several times a year
Advisors to SQS clients    
  Sector-specific communication Periodically
  SQS blog, e-newsletter Several times a year
  Variously Annually, or depending
on the standard
  Variously Several times a year
  Variously Several times a year

* Standard setters, accreditation and registration authorities, legislators, authorities

Members of the Board and executive management +
Members of the advisory council and political advisory council +

Compensation of greenhouse gas emissions

Overview +

Treibhausgas-Emissionen für 2021:
Bestätigung Kompensation durch myclimate / Treibhausgasbilanz SQS

Treibhausgas-Emissionen für 2020:
Bestätigung Kompensation durch myclimate / Treibhausgasbilanz SQS

Treibhausgas-Emissionen für 2018:
Bestätigung Kompensation

Treibhausgas-Emissionen für 2017:
Bestätigung Kompensation

Treibhausgas-Emissionen für 2016:
Bestätigung Kompensation

Treibhausgas-Emissionen für 2015:
Bestätigung Kompensation

Treibhausgas-Emissionen für 2014:
Bestätigung Kompensation

Treibhausgas-Emissionen für 2013:
Bestätigung Kompensation

Treibhausgas-Emissionen für 2012:
Bestätigung Kompensation