Kemmy Business School, University of Limerick
The innovation behind the backpacks ensures that these bags cause less environmental harm than standard bags by being made from nearly 100% recycled PET bottles. By using recycled PET bottles in the production process, natural resources such as oil and water are saved and the subsequent amount of waste is largely reduced.
“FROM BOTTLE TO BAG” (FOND OF 2016).
In order to use the fabric from the PET bottles, the bottles are collected, washed and shredded into flakes. The flakes are melted into pallets, which are then processed into a thread. The final fabric is weaved from this thread.
With the intention to pursue a holistic concept of sustainability, FOND OF is currently working on a system where these backpacks can be returned to the producer once the consumer is finished with them, rather than throwing them away. These backpacks will then be re-used in the production of a brand new backpack or other items. However, as FOND OF is a young company, these considerations are at a very early stage. When commencing their sustainability efforts, they focused on the beginning of its value chain to reduce environmental harm and secure appropriate working conditions in their production.
Even though their first backpacks were produced using conventional materials, the founders of FOND OF have a strong desire to act sustainably. While searching for ways to develop higher sustainability in their production process, they became captivated by the idea of using fabric made from recycled PET bottles. FOND OF was the pioneering brand in taking this approach in the school backpack market.
This production method is mainly beneficial in two ways. First, it mitigates harm to the environment due to the reduction of emissions as well as reduced consumption of water and oil. Secondly, this innovative approach has had a spill over effect into the market. As competitors recognized that this sustainable production process was being enthusiastically embraced by customers, they too tried to implement a similar process. Thus, FOND OF sparked a new trend which has resulted in beneficial impacts on the environment being increased exponentially.
Using PET bottles as a raw material for production adds extra costs for the company. This is even more significant because the price sensitivity in the textile industry is quite high. At first glance, it appears that the business is negatively affected due to higher production costs. However, due to society’s ever-growing awareness of sustainability, consumers are increasingly willing to pay a higher price for these products. Therefore, the sustainability of the backpacks is used as a selling point which to date has shown to be highly successful and beneficial..
The material for conventionally produced backpacks usually contains oil-based fabrics. By using fabrics made from recycled PET bottles, any harm to the environment is considerably reduced. The wide use of oil, large quantities of water and harmful CO2 emissions, all the result of a conventional production process, can be significantly mitigated by adopting the approach pioneered by FOND OF.
“Compared to conventional production methods, waste water is reduced by 20%, energy consumption by 50%, and emissions of harmful pollutants by 60%” (FOND OF 2016).
Between 2010 and 2016, FOND OF has used 86 million recycled PET bottles for their products. Consequently, 5,632 barrels of oil, 1.15 million bathtubs of water and approximately 3,500 metric tonnes worth of CO2 have been saved.
The used bottles in the production process are from Taiwan. The government subsidizes a statutory system for PET bottles where each bottle has a deposit that will be refunded if it is returned. This is an incentive to return used bottles and not throw them away and harm the environment.
To guarantee certain standards such as working conditions and appropriate payments to the local workers, the factories and sewing rooms involved in the supply chain are audited by FOND OF and independent audit organizations such as a team from the FAIR WEAR FOUNDATION (FWF) where FOND OF is a member company. In order to avoid the audit being biased and influenced by the factory management, the team also speaks with local residents, fruit and vegetable vendors and the workers outside the factory gates to get an authentic insight into the working environments. Besides auditing, workers can also call the complaint hotline of the FWF in case of any problem. The complaint is then directly forwarded to the FOND OF corporate responsibility team. FOND OF feels a large responsibilty not only to their consumers but also the people involved in the entire supply chain process. No matter how many miles away, they take care of the well-being of everyone involved, a refreshing and admirable trait of any company. As not all suppliers in the production process are directly reachable, FOND OF purchases components for their products mainly from bluesign® system partners. This helps ensure that the components were produced in a more sustainable way.
Dr. Julian Conrads, Head of Corporate Social Responsibility
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Business Website: http://www.fondofbags.com
Year Founded: 2010
Number of Employees: 51-200
“FOND OF” is a medium-sized company based in Cologne, Germany. The organisation produces various types of sophisticated backpacks through the implementation of a unique and innovative process. Established in 2010, it is regarded as a company still in the early stages of development and are currently on a quest to being a sustainable company. They manufacture bags to suit a majority of market segments ranging from young consumers to old, thus having a diverse target market.
The founders of FOND OF approached physiotherapists who reported a worrying increase in the number of students suffering from back pain. In accordance with the physiotherapists, FOND OF deciphered the likelihood of such pains being caused by weighty school bags that failed to focus on the growing need for an ergonomic backpack design. FOND OF identified a gap in the market and were inspired to create an ergonomic school bag with the aim of mitigating student’s back pain and improving their overall well-being. Thus, they combined the ergonomics, strength and support of a hiking rucksack with the functionality of a school bag.
During the development phase of the backpacks, they explored the opportunity to use fabrics derived from highly recyclable polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles.
“Corporate responsibility is one of the six core issues that we deal with together. A lot of hard work and a little spunk are gradually bringing us closer to our goal of being a sustainable company” (FOND OF 2016).