Social and Economic award
Mikkel Vestergaard Frandsen is CEO of Swiss-based Vestergaard Frandsen S.A., whose “profit for a purpose” approach has turned social responsibility into its core business. The 50-year-old company originally created hotel and supermarket uniforms; however, when Mikkel, grandson of the founder, became involved he focused the company’s resources on solving some of the underdeveloped world’s greatest health problems.
Today, Vestergaard Frandsen’s products are in use in refugee camps and disaster areas all over the world. Its products include PermaNet, a mosquito bed net impregnated with insecticide; ZeroFly, a tent tarp that kills flies; and LifeStraw, a filter worn around the neck that makes dirty water safe to drink.
The company's PermaNet 2.0 is one of only two long-lasting mosquito nets worldwide that have a World Health Organization Pesticide Evaluation Scheme (WHOPES) full recommendation that declares it safe and effective for the prevention and control of malaria. As mosquitoes have become resistant to insecticides, Vestergaard Frandsen released a new generation PermaNet 3.0 Combination Net that combines traditional insecticide with a synergist. In December 2008, Vestergaard Frandsen received WHOPES interim recommendation for this latest version. Ninety percent of Verstergaard Frandsen’s business is malaria prevention.
Vestergaard Frandsen, which is still family-owned, does not disclose financial data, but the company sells two to three million PermaNets every month. It has distributed a total of more than 175 million to date. The nets are sold at roughly US$5 each, depending on the size, shape and color, and the company makes a profit at that price.
Malaria claims more than one million lives every year, according to the World Health Organisation and Vestergaard Frandsen’s nets are helping reduce these numbers. The Global Malaria Action Plan estimates that 730 million nets must be delivered worldwide to achieve its goal of near zero deaths by 2015.
Vestergaard Frandsen’s LifeStraw could save many more lives. More than one billion people worldwide lack access to safe drinking water and 6,000 people die each day of waterborne diseases like typhoid, cholera and dysentery. LifeStraw eliminates virtually all water-borne pathogens, killing and removing 99.999 percent of waterborne bacteria and 98.2 percent of waterborne viruses. One straw provides nearly 300 gallons of clean drinking water and can be made for less than US$3 each. The straws sell for about US$4.75 each for orders in quantities greater than 10,000.
Verstergaard Frandsen sells 80 percent of its products to large NGOs; however, the company is making a move to retail. In Africa and Northern Europe, LifeStraws are sold in camping, sporting goods and drug stores. Verstergaard Frandsen plans to move into the United States market in the future.