La Fageda

Talk is cheap, work is meaningful: cooperative with disabled people to make cream of the crop

Thursday 6 November 2008

12 inspired

Why did we choose this company?

There are a lot of organizations that talk about problems of disabled people. In an attempt to help they arrange charity events and raise funds to entertain and enhance care of handicapped. However, this is not enough: the paternalized need not only monetary help and recreation, they want to feel equal to other people. La Fageda is a company that first listened to the persons they wanted to help and then found a business model that allowed to efficiently involve disabled people in the production. The staff of La Fageda feels happy and satisfied. Finally the situation of handicapped people completely changed: they do not ask for help, now they do something useful for the society. While talk is cheap, work might be meaningful and profitable.

Main facts about the activities of the company

La Fageda is a non-lucrative Catalan cooperative with a social aim. It was started up by a group of psycotherapists in `La Fageda d’en Jordà ´ (Olot - Catalonia). The idea came from Cristobal Colón Palasí, when he realized that patients performing useless tasks during the work-therapy sessions at hospitals did not feel self-fulfilled. Palasí suggested to change “Let’s do as if we are at work” approach with a new one: “Let’s do something worthy for society”.

Although the productivity of La Fageda is below the average (due to the fact that half of the workers are handicapped), its turnover in 2006 amounted to €7.264.000 ($11.280.300). Apart from the milk production company’s profits also come from the contributions of different institutions. La Fageda employs all these earnings to cover workers’ assistance and to reinvest in improving company’s facilities.

The firm operates in a highly-competitive sector challenging market shares of Danone and Nestlé. La Fageda’s prices are substantially higher than average (a pack of 4 natural yogurts of La Fageda costs €1.48 while the same 4-yogurth pack for Danone is €1.09, so Fageda’s prices are more than a 20% higher than those of its rivals) but for the moment it is in the top-3 in terms of sales and invoicing for the area of Catalonia. This fact clearly demonstrates that consumers are not only willing to pay for the product itself, they are committed to contribute to the company’s social mission implementation.

Ethical challenges the company is addressing and reasons to trust in it

The mission of “La Fageda” is the social integration of handicapped people by employing them indefinitely at cooperative work and ensuring them a future. This idea is upheld by main company values: solidarity and comprehension. At La Fageda handicapped workers are perceived not as disabled, but instead as people with different capacities and competences who need a special learning program but are not inferior to the others. Company’s managers listen to all staff members and have a personalized approach towards each of them.

Milk diary production is the main, but not the only one activity performed by La Fageda. If employees are not psychologically prepared to stay all day long with machines they are offered many others working places in gardening, nursery and farming sections. Moreover, pursuing the goal of maximizing possible welfare for its staff the company takes account of the additional assistance to satisfy employees’ needs and provides workers with flats, special leisure activities, etc.

Challenges the company might face in the future and ways to improve

Part of the company’s success may also be attributed to the vertically integrated structure, privileged location of the farms and control over the product quality on each of the production stages. Although triumphant in Catalonia the firm does not want to commercialize its products abroad because the company’s value chain based on the close “family” relationship and mutual help between the members of society might not prove sustainable for a bigger scale.

Despite these constraints La Fageda sticks to its principles and keeps on evolving. It is difficult to extend the geographical boundaries being a small firm - that is why La Fageda is approaching the issue from other side. Recently the company set up `Clade´, the first Catalan group of cooperatives that has an important role in different sectors and hopefully will help La Fageda to further promote its mission.

Ideas for future business:

“Instead of doing as if we are at work let’s do something worthy for the society”

Start a new discussion

10 Discussions / 11 Messages

  • La Fageda 4 June 2012 at 12:07 , by Giampaolo

    I think they showed that a different mission is possible. They are able to mantain a position in a competitive market (facing Danone competition among others) while employing workers with physically and mentally disability. I always thought that if you employ these people they feel better because they understand they have a role in the society. In addition they can produce products and offering services, helping also to sustain growth and development. Danone itself, even if only for a niche, created a unit called Grameen Danone Foods to bring affordable nutrition to malnourished children. Does best practices are contagious?

  • La Fageda 18 June 2012 at 15:17 , by Vasyl Davydko

    From my point of view, it is not the question that best practices are contagious, but the fact that some new trends are gaining importance in our society. Topics like social justice or environmental issues were not that important 10 years ago. Social entrepreneurship departments have appeared in top universities and there are more and more people who study this field that very few were paying attention before.

    And consumers consider this too. When one is going to the supermarket, Danone products are probably less expensive, but one knows that the profit is going to the owner´s of the corporation; while in case of La Fageda, the revenues have a social purpose. There are people who prefer to pay more, but knowing that their money are going to be used in order to make one step more in our way to a better world. Is it possible? Yes. Is it going to happen tomorrow? Probably, no. Nevertheless, quoting Lao Tzu,"The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step".

    Personally, this has been a very inspiring firm for which has showed my that a different way of doing is possible. It is important to remember that money should be at our service and not the other way around. Doing business does not necessarily mean that one has to stream to become a billionaire, but, while having some resources for a house, food,etc., it can also have some other purposes like helping other individuals around us.

  • La Fageda 20 June 2012 at 08:08 , by ainoa.ryll

    I find indispensable to put some words for these company.

    First of all I appreciate the effort to talk about a close firm like this because the results of their policy can be easliy perceived in our society.

    Then I have to say that the initiative is amazing. The products are a little more expensive, they’re facing a really big competitive sector as the food one it is, but they are managing to keep the staff and their plants, so I find this company more succesful than any other big corporate food one.

    It’s really inspiring and it’s the way business it should be, from my point of view.

  • La Fageda 26 February 2013 at 21:33 , by ingrid.c

    This company has seemed to me totally inspiring for two reasons. On the one hand shows that in today’s society can exist competitive business models following principles purely human and not entirely profitable, leaving aside the economic ambition that moves the world and that makes forget the values ​​that really enrich us as a person. One of the best examples of this is that the Fageda not export their products and continue to believe in a small but very rich company.
    Of course the other reason is its integrative function forgetting the prejudices and feelings of superiority, simply treating people as such, optimizing their capabilities.

    Although their aim is not profit last year data are available, in 23 countries, demonstrating that cooperatives are overcoming the economic crisis better than business enterprises as economic outperform, occupancy rates and survival in the market.

    Personally I think these businesses encourage another way of doing business. They encourage us to be more human and to maintain important values ​​such as empathy, tolerance and respect.
    To me the phrase that defines these acts is “sharing is generated more value than competing”.

  • La Fageda 27 February 2013 at 12:00 , by Dídac Pons

    I find this company inspiring because I think that they are doing a very good labor with the world. All of us see, day a day, different disable people and in my case, I normally think: "Poor people, they will have a lot of troubles if they want to work, because nobody wants to hire them". On this way, La Fageda achieved it, and as we can see in the description on the main page, more than the half of their employees (125 of 210), are disabled.

    In my opinion, this world need more companies like this. Companies that want profits on two ways: Monetary and social profits. I don’t know if this brand is known or not in the world, but in Catalonia is a very famous one. All of us know his project, and this company has been object of a lot of university projects related with management or social responsability. This is the reason that makes this company special, different, and makes us think about the possibility of a better world.

    Dídac

    • La Fageda 27 February 2013 at 12:30 , by ErnestCabani

      I was about to comment this company when I see you starting a discuss, so I’m going to continue with yours. Some time ago, I watched a TV program about la fageda (I think it was "30 minuts), I was really impressed by its labour. But what actually inspire me is the fact that this cooperative not only helps handicapped people by money but also making they feel useful in the society instead of other companies that just talk about this issue and in some cases only to improve its corporative image. La fageda trully treats deeply this matter. The entire description of La fageda on this web is the reason why I am inspired, Furthermore, I’m conscious that not every bussiness can implement this model, but I’d like to encourage other companies to hire disabled people, at least, in a lower percentatge, due to two reasons: help people and improving its human capital.

  • La Fageda 27 February 2013 at 20:56 , by sergib92

    Admittedly, that’s La Fageda social service does a great job giving care to people with chronic mental illness, and the prize money involved.

    With its corporate philosophy, we should thank their contribution to the collective morality. It’s a shame you don’t have a presence in most provinces, because more than one would like to contribute their family consumption, to support a project like La Fageda.

    I think the main objective of the company is rebuilding people with impaired psychological structure, dependents and not valued or recognized by working recover self-esteem.

  • La Fageda 27 February 2013 at 22:38 , by sergi lacort

    This company seems very interesting, by the way overcoming transmit values ​​that everyone should take to improve and also always make a profit from it.

    What better way than with people whom society expects nothing but to show that you can improve if one wishes?

    It is very interesting as this company wants to transmit positive values ​​and better even so that society can respond to the way you do that is by buying these products while more expensive than others. But this makes me think about something and are:
    People want to help and we are happier with ourselves to say that we help others? Really now the society is changing and cares more for others?

    I would think that more and more people put aside the common interest and seek the benefit of society but with acts such as we see today in politics or corporations who only seek self-interest is difficult to believe that.

    Even so, there are companies like Fageda always show that can help improve society.

  • La Fageda 28 February 2013 at 23:38 , by Aminata

    It’s possible to survive successfully for a company with a social cause? Yes, La Fageda has shown that it is possible. Currently, we are surrounded, and increasingly, by many companies that are capable to forget the fundamental values for maximize their profits.

    However, this is not the case of La Fageda, a social initiative that has become a benchmark of good management of people. This company integrates the physically disabled and people with learning difficulties through the production and marketing of yogurt and other quality milk-based desserts, made only with milk from its own cows.
    This company has been successful and its success is due to the quality of their products. They are manufactured in a very careful process and this is the key to the continued existence of the firm. So buying la Fageda products, you are not only enjoying tasty yogurt, but you are also contributing in a good causes through a social responsible business.

    For all this, I think La Fageda is an example of good business. Working in La Fageda is more than working, it gives a sense of dignity, a sense of living and a sense of usefulness getting excellent results.

  • La Fageda 1 March 2013 at 02:19 , by estoesdemasiado

    The Business Model of La Fageda could be applied to many differents companies like beers manufacturers, hotels, schools... Handicaped people should take part of our (all of us) daily life because they make that ’normal’ people just can live in diversity (colorcast, gender, purchasing power, capabilities...), realise about this reality and help each other. We are human, and everybody can learn from other people, everybody must learn form other people

  • La Fageda 14 June 2015 at 10:37 , by josepgis

    La Fageda is a perfect example of how to do business in a sustainable framework. La Fageda hasn’t only demonstrated that it could be self-sustainable, but has also improved the lives of more than 100 families in its region. Congratulations to all the workers and the founders.

Location: Olot (Spain, Girona)

Sector: Accommodation and food service activities

Official website: http://www.fageda.com

Key figures:

210 employees among them 125 disabled or mentally sick

Turnover (31.12.2006) 7.264.000 Euro

Contribution to the environment 255.000 Euro

Nbr. visits: 3555

Nbr. inspires: 12