Where are Switzerland’s biggest international companies?

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
Where are Switzerland’s biggest international companies?
Nestlé headquarters in Vevey, Vaud. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini / AFP

You may think that the biggest Swiss urban centres are also home to the country’s largest companies. But that is not necessarily so.


Perhaps you believe that Switzerland’s main activity is centred on banks, watches, cheese, chocolate, and not much else.

While this view fits in well with many stereotypes about the country, it does not depict the whole picture.

In fact, Switzerland is home to a large number of international companies: in all, 850 have based their global or regional head offices here.

READ MORE: Why Switzerland continues to attract foreign companies despite the coronavirus pandemic

The reason, according to Switzerland Global Enterprise, the official promotion organisation for export and investment, is that “Switzerland offers an exceptional number of advantages: a strategic location in the heart of Europe, a high standard of living and secure and reliable infrastructure, as well as an attractive taxation system".

But though logic may have it that most of these enterprises are headquartered in large cities like Zurich, Geneva, and Basel, this is only partially true.


Let’s see where the largest companies are located in Switzerland:


Switzerland’s largest company, Nestlé — which manufactures a wide range of products, including baby food, bottled water, cereal, and chocolate — has a sprawling presence in a small (population about 20,000) town of Vevey.

Located on the shore of Lake Geneva in Vaud, the town is also known as the place where Charlie Chaplin spent the last 25 years of his life, and whose mansion is now a museum dedicated to his work.

Other big multinationals headquartered in Vaud are cigarette producer Philip Morris International, which employs 3,000 people in Lausanne, as well as Medtronic, a global producer of medical devices, whose European headquarters (and 750 employees) are located in a village of Tolochenaz.


Two large Swiss healthcare companies — Roche and Novartis — are based in this city, which is unofficially known as the pharma capital of Switzerland.

Roche employs 13,6000 people in its core diagnostics and pharmaceutical divisions, while 8,000 people work on Novartis’ site, to which the company refers to as a “campus.”

READ MORE: Is Basel the best Swiss city for foreigners and Geneva the worst?


The tiny canton of Zug has a high concentration of multinational companies, the largest of which is the mining giant, Glencore.

Other well-known corporations in the canton are appliance manufacturer Siemens, as well as a healthcare firm Johnson & Johnson.

What large companies are located in the two largest cities, Zurich and Geneva?

Among corporations that call Zurich their “home” are the  Swedish-Swiss multinational automation company ABB, AXA insurance company, UBS and Credit Suisse banks, and the Swiss division of Google.


What about Geneva?

Aside from some private banks, as well as Rolex watches, Geneva is also headquarters to multinationals like grain trader Cargill International and Procter & Gamble consumer goods.

Do any of these companies hire foreign nationals?

Part of the workforce in each of the above companies consists of foreign nationals.

Your best bet to be hired by one of them — aside from qualifications needed for specific positions — is to be a EU / EFTA national, or have either a B or C work permit. Those criteria, however, apply to all jobs in Switzerland.

If you want to see what positions are available, and how much they pay, you can check out each company's website or you can send the recruitment department your CV to put on file.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: How to write the perfect Swiss CV


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