Freitag

FROM TRUCK TILL BAG

Sunday 5 June 2016, by anna, marc puchol, Mariam Ben, Tiago Pereira

1 inspired

A. The main facts about the activities of the company.

Freitag is a Swiss innovative company known for the production of bags made from recycled materials. The product they offer is 100% eco friendly. Its production is based on recycled materials (truck tarps, seatbelts, …) that provide the peculiar characteristics and appearance. The company produces around 300.000 products per year using 300 tons of truck tarpaulins, 15,000 bicycle inner tubes and 130,000 car seatbelts per year.

Both the style/design and recycling materials are very important for them, It is the value of the product. The innovative spirit within the company plays an important role, from the manufacture of the first bag to fill a need, to new materials research and progress in terms of “sustainability” of these.

The idea came from Markus and Daniel Freitag who were two graphic designers brothers who in Zuric,1993 were facing a problem. The problem was that when they were carrying out their designs by bike and rain, their designs got wet. They need to find out some materials which were enough tough, durable and water -repellent for making a bag in which they could carry their designs. Finally, they came up with an idea. They wonder for what were used the tarpaulins of the lorries once they are out of circulation and they thought that their new bags could be produced with recycled tarpaulins and decorated with any other object they had in hand as second-hand car seat-belt or other complements. So, they consider that the idea of working with recycled materials is a mixture between interest and coincidence.

Grow up in a green-minded atmosphere made the Freitag brothers value recycled materials and decreased car use. These values show themselves in Freitag’s product made from recycled materials for people who don’t drive cars. The basic idea was to make something useful from waste. The recycling gives it its unique character and people are willing to pay a premium price for a green personality. Apart from recycling, one of the things differentiates Freitag from competitors is its production process.

1. Obtaining raw material
Obtaining the main raw material used by Freitag is not an easy task. The company has a team of five people known as truck spotters who are dedicated exclusively to the constant pursuit of this material from different areas of Europe in order to get 300 tons of truck consumed annually. They don’t focus only on the quantity but also the quality showing great interest in the variety of colors.

2. Cutting the tarps
The next step is to cut the tarps in standardized 7.8 foot pieces, fold them together and send them off to the Laundry Department to proceed with cleaning and disinfection. This work is done by personnel with great physical qualities as requires a great deal due to the material dimension.

3. Cleaning
Once the material reaches the Laundry Department starts the transformation process of the material from used into patina and old into vintage using 3963 gallons of rainwater daily along with a tarp-wash bath additive. Once dry, the tarps are sent to the designers.

4. Bag design
Unlike their competitors, Freitag designed manually various models of bags that should be manufactured. Giving way to creative work, designers have achieved exclusivity thanks to the traditional process.

5. Sewing
Only prototypes and test bags are sewn at the F-actory. The last part of the process its externalized to other partners from countries like Switzerland, France, Bulgaria, among others. Still, after receiving the goods it is reviewed by Freitag staff adding the finishing touches. Once ready, the product is shipped to the various outlets.

B. The Ethical challenges this company is addressing.

When we talk about ethical challenges, conflicts between ethics and business, Freitag presents a less common way to face up these goals.
The mixture of intent and coincidence took this company to find that the most suitable material for its backpacks was the truck tarpaulin. Production based on recycled material, an environmental issue that unintentionally becomes its identification mark.
The company has defined an evolution; a need has developed a production based on the reuse of materials, a sustainable activity that puts interest in the social and ecological impact.

Freitag has different kind of products differentiated by the materials they are made. For example, for their clothes use natural fibres which are 100% compostable, these materials are part of the closed biological cycle, what means that once these materials are used can be used more times. But on the other hand, the materials they used for their bags, although they have been recycled, they are not part of the closed biological cycle since when bags are not useful anymore, their materials are not useful anymore.

In order to address this problem, he founders found an opportunity to develop their own textiles through sustainably production and compostable materials made in Europe, F-ABRIC.
All the resources used in this line are grown on European soil and don’t harm it or require excessive amounts of water grow, moreover the journey from fiber to finished product is just a short trip for F-ABRIC. Clothes are healthy due to low % of chemical used during the cultivation and further processing of the line and have been tested for several months to prove its toughness, comfort and other qualities. That textiles are 100% naturally biodegradable including threads and sewerage, a piece of clothing thus becomes fertile soil for new raw materials and the cycle continues.

Also, Freitag use a minimum amount of chemicals during manufacturing of all its products, which is why they don’t bleach the materials and use reactive colors for dyeing. The finished product is tested according to the Oeko Tex® Standard 100 / Product Class I for babies and toddlers.

C. What makes you believe this company is really ethical and why you trust it?

It is not about having a great CSR structure, nor having many reasons facing ethical or sustainability issues. We believe in companies that are unlinked from the conventional, trying to go one step forward and that are no longer dedicating a percentage or controlling some of its processes, but they are changing the way of production. That really gives value, personality and inspires.

Freitag has gone one step further in its production process, in order to be even more sustainable. They have solved the problem of recycling plastic, which they could only prolong its life but was not degradable.
With the development of this new biodegradable material, they have taken the lead in terms of environmental commitment.

D.The possible challenges facing the company in the future and how you think this company may improve.

After having a look in their online shop we could appreciate that their prices are quite high, that means if prices are expensive their products are only address to segmented part of the population, those whose purchasing power is also high. So, if Freitag’s goal is to make everybody aware of social responsibility and sustainability they should reduce prices and adjust them to a standard purchasing power. If prices remain high, those part of the population who cannot afford them will just ignore their products and they also will not be informed about the utilization of recycled materials neither they will not raise their awareness about sustainability

In the early days of the company, the fact that bags became trend among young university students could have contributed to the education of society indirectly transmitting values of sustainability such as environmental protection, recycling...
The company should use this strategy to encourage the use of reusable products between society, establishing an initiative that conscience people that resources will become exhausted and they should participate actively in the search for sustainable alternatives.

Another challenge to give continuity to Freitag social responsibility and sustainability of their products, the company should also develop ways to transform their materials in end of life, like their bags, in other new products. They could try to develop a recovery program to ensure the continuity of those products which are not 100% biodegradables.

Bibliography

http://www.freitag.ch/support/faq

http://rankabrand.org/casual-clothing/Freitag

Location: Zurich-Oerlikon (Switzerland)

Sector: Manufacturing, Wholesale and retail trade

Official website: http://www.freitag.ch

Key figures:

1. Proprietors: Markus and Daniel Freitag
2. Number of Staff: 160
3. Production: Around 300.000 products per year
4. Number of stores: 11
5. Materials used: 300 tons of truck carpaulins, 130.000 car seatbelts and 15.000 bycicle inner tubes per year

Nbr. visits: 812

Nbr. inspires: 1