How a Textile Company Became a Development Powerhouse
Thursday, January 7, 2016
As the international community increasingly calls on business to help finance and implement the Sustainable Development Goals, the private sector has questions of its own — namely ‘What exactly is the market opportunity?’
Vestergaard is one example of a business that’s transformed itself into a vehicle to answer that question by tackling some of the world’s most pressing problems like malaria, safe drinking water and food security.
What they’ve proven over the years is that in the long term, doing good is in fact good business.
When Mikkel Vestergaard Frandsen first joined his family-owned textile company in Denmark, it primarily made uniforms for hotel clerks or supermarket employees. It was a lucrative business line — with revenues of $5 million a year — but Vestergaard Frandsen, brought in by his dad to work for the company, had bigger plans. Now, about 20 years later, the company, which focuses on providing solutions to key development challenges by drawing from its textile know-how, has increased its revenue 50 times.
They’ve done so by employing a strategy they call “humanitarian entrepreneurship,” a model and philosophy that strays from the norm for a typical corporation, Vestergaard Frandsen explained.
“I often meet some disbelief and I guess it’s people who at times need to see it first hand to understand that it is possible that doing good strengthens your company, that doing good attracts better talent and that doing good offers a mission-driven business and that doing good by and large is good for your bottom line,” he said.