Auping's Circular Journey: Creation is only the drop - Collaboration creates the ripples! | Knowledge Hub | Circle Lab
Business case
Auping's Circular Journey: Creation is only the drop - Collaboration creates the ripples!


Royal Auping, the largest independent bed manufacturer in the Netherlands, has 303 full time employees and 322 flexible workers from over 40 countries. Auping’s goal is to make high-quality durable beds with a lifelong guarantee, which has remained core to the company’s strategy. Since its founding in 1888, Auping has remained a family business and prioritised its social commitment (both to its workers and the larger community). This is reflected in the company’s social fund scheme, which includes financial emergency support for its employees and their families. Such a social foundation is critical to understanding the company’s DNA of being socially minded and sustainable.

The company was initially founded to help hospitals locate suitable mattresses for their patients. So, how has the company, which is now more than 130 years old, continued to remain relevant? By being masterful in innovation! Auping has continuously adapted its products to be more sustainable: it received a B Corporation Certification (marking it as a business that assesses the balance between purpose and profits), which solidified its reputation as a circular economy industry leader in the Netherlands.


1. Auping’s incremental upskilling of employees results in them gaining unique and rich industry expertise. However, establishing a knowledge management system is critical to ensure this valuable knowledge is retained and shared within the company as well as external parties and can serve as in-house training, an extension of its licensing scheme or as an entirely new business proposition for higher education, vocational school or industry professionals. 

2. One of Auping’s main challenges is to ensure the pioneering and enthusiastic spirit is kept alive. Amid the growing global uncertainty and as the company furthers its circular ambitions, ensuring employees’ sense of security and wellbeing becomes a critical opportunity in the successful delivery of its ambitions. HRM has the opportunity to showcase its commitment to the worker’s morale and wellbeing by encouraging honest conversations with employees, assisting and motivating workers who are struggling and ensuring that overall morale at the company is stable, despite the hard times.



Driven by the 1.5 million incinerated or discarded mattresses a year in the Netherlands alone, and the complex composition of glued materials (which makes it difficult to reuse), Auping’s circular journey was initiated and promoted by Jan-Joost Bosman, its CEO. The company strives to reduce waste—stopping the incineration of used mattresses and the loss of valuable raw materials while developing an easy-to-disassemble and recycle mattress. All of the materials in Auping’s mattresses can be reused to develop new, fresh mattresses. As Auping has a strong social foundation, focused on providing optimal working and social conditions for its employees, the transition to circularity has been a reconciliation of both sustainability and its founding social component. 

Within Auping, the idea for a circular mattress originated as early as 2010. Auping then developed a long-term vision and strategy to transition toward a Cradle-to-Cradle philosophy to produce the world’s first circular mattress. Developing the strategy was sequential and incremental, including the inclusion of circular metrics in the company’s KPIs. The initial challenge was understanding how to produce the mattress and comprehending the required skills needed to develop the circular mattress. The subsequent step was to implement incremental changes to its production based on three main principles:  

1. Manufacture from 100% reusable materials, 

2. Minimal use of fossil fuels and increased reliance on renewable energy, 

3. Keep employee wellbeing central to operations. 


In 2020, with technology co-development partner Niaga, Auping designed the world’s first fully circular mattress: the Auping Evolve. Its circular mattress now represents 85% of the company’s total mattress production. And as demand grows, the company has begun expanding its circular mattress range.It aims to be fully circular by 2030 at the latest. In May 2022, Auping launched two premium circular mattresses, the Auping Elysium and Auping Elite. It also trialled a Product-as-a-Service circular business offering:, its Bedzzzy Sleep Subscription service. Due to limited consumer interest this service was recently discontinued.  

Keeping the circular momentum going, summer 2023 will see the Auping Evolve become customizable and its production become automated and robotically produced in a pilot production line in Deventer, the Netherlands. By scaling up its production, it will be able to reduce the mattress's unit cost. Since the costs will still be higher than standard mattress production, Auping has taken the radical step of offering its circular mattress innovation in licence form to its competitors. 

“Financing our circular mattress? The first steps are always more expensive…but that is part of a longer-running business case. And essential! It's not just about making your products sustainable, but also your company! Circular business models make your company future-proof.”

- Martijn Aalders - Director HR

Additional information


1. Auping recognises that the impact they can make independently is small and that it takes collaboration to create systemic change. With this ideology in mind, Auping has embarked on a remarkable and novel strategy: collaborating with its competition. Specifically, a company engineer is assisting a competitor company in the design of its circular mattress. The main goal is to ensure that more players are in the market in order for a circular mattress industry to flourish.

2. Auping’s sustainability and innovation Director has oversight and is responsible for the execution of Auping’s vision. However, the effort to embed the Cradle-to-Cradle circular approach in all its operations has been a company-wide endeavour. Moreover, the overall strategy development is done with ‘Voorvliegers’, a group of 30 managers within the organisation—including HR—who evaluate and provide feedback on the company’s journey. 

3. The main challenge in Auping’s journey has been defining and finding the right circular expertise. Aside from seeking classical technical expertise, its engineers were encouraged to have a broad mindset, and to be open to learning about circularity and innovation. In 2008, Auping started a lean production process focused on continuous improvement, an approach that has proven fruitful in producing the world’s first circular mattress. Without a formalised upskilling process, its employees gain specific expertise through learning-by-doing and training each other. The continuous nature of Auping’s transition has allowed for older employees to continue their tasks while younger new recruits are trained and learn on the job. 

4. The Human Resources Department has not played an active role in Auping’s transition, as it was initially viewed as a technical endeavour. Yet, the HRM team has been playing a critical role in understanding the company’s existing skills and allocating its workforce according to the challenges that arise. In addition, redeployment within departments is common, thus at Auping, the employees are trained to be flexible and entrepreneurial. 

5. In 2020, Auping received a B Corporation Certification, since then it has required greater HRM involvement in order to formally track the company’s progress towards its goals. 

6. Auping’s reputation as a socially-minded company with a cooperative culture has been nurtured over the years. For instance, Auping has a social financing scheme consisting of a monthly €1.50 contribution per employee to a common account which Auping then matches. This social fund is intended for colleagues and their families who may be facing temporary difficulties. This reputation has allowed the company to successfully attract socially-minded, skilled employees needed to deliver the circular mattress 

7. In delivering a fully circular mattress, the company’s communicative and feedback culture is a key pillar of its success. Its regular employee survey has given formal avenues for managers, engineers, researchers, and production staff to listen to each other, and to learn and improve production processes throughout the company’s journey. Thus, despite management setting the strategic direction, all employees are given as much freedom as possible within their decision-making authority, whereby everyone has their own degree of influence.

 “In terms of hiring? We ensure that the right skills and especially mindset are present within the organisation. We have defined this. We then look at which skills are needed and we draw up a profile. Here, however, we don't look so much at what exactly can someone already do, but where does someone stand? What behaviour/motivation do they have? Anyone can learn, but you have to have the right mindset!”

- Martijn Aalders - Director HR