|Founder||Kaj Vestergaard Frandsen|
|Products||Mosquito nets, water filters|
|Brands||LifeStraw, PermaNet, ZeroFly|
|Owner||Mikkel Vestergaard Frandsen|
Number of employees
Vestergaard is a company headquartered in Lausanne, Switzerland that manufactures public health tools for people in developing countries. Founded as Vestergaard Frandsen in 1957 as a uniform maker, the company evolved into a social enterprise making products for humanitarian aid in the 1990s. It is now best known for inventing the LifeStraw water filter and the PermaNet mosquito net.
Vestergaard was founded in 1957 by Kaj Vestergaard Frandsen, a former farmer and the grandfather of the current CEO, Mikkel Vestergaard Frandsen. Kaj founded the company with a friend before doing it alone. The company made linings for jackets and uniforms. Kaj's son Torben took over in 1970. Production was moved to Ireland in an expensive mistake, then moved to Poland in 1989.
In 1990, Torben bought up 1 million yards of Swedish army surplus fabric used for uniforms, and turned it into blankets for aid organizations. That was the beginning of a change in focus of the company that continued after Mikkel was persuaded to join the company by his father in 1993. Mikkel had worked in Lagos from the age of 19 running a truck company, which "ignited his passion for Africa." He left Nigeria following a military coup and returned to Denmark to work with his father. In 1997 Torben and Mikkel agreed to split the company into separate female uniform and humanitarian textiles businesses, and then Mikkel bought out his father and stopped producing uniforms.
In 1996, the company began supplying Guinea worm filters to The Carter Center. PermaNet bed nets were launched in 1999, LifeStraw was introduced in 2005 and ZeroFly entered the market in 2012. The company moved headquarters from Kolding to Lausanne in 2005-6, which it said was to better attract specialist employees and due to the presence of international organizations such as UN agencies and the Red Cross in Switzerland. In 2010, the company was around 20 times the size of when Mikkel joined it. Vestergaard has been a member of the UN Global Compact since 2008 and initiated, then participated in the Bed Net Industry Dialogue hosted by the Global Business Coalition in 2009.
In 2011, a Human Rights Watch investigation led the company to drop several Vietnamese contractors who had been using "labor therapy" workers in drug rehabilitation camps to make mosquito nets. Vestergaard responded by initiating additional stringent supply chain policies and hired a Chief Supply Chain Officer. Long-running legal action by Vestergaard for breach of confidentiality against companies founded by former employees who left in 2004, first Intection in Denmark and then BestNet in the United Kingdom, ended in 2014 when the UK High Court awarded damages to Vestergaard; BestNet declared bankruptcy in 2015.
The company has several "disease control textiles" products designed as health interventions for developing countries, including the LifeStraw water filtration device to prevent waterborne disease, and the PermaNet, a mosquito net impregnated with the long-lasting insecticide deltamethrin to prevent malaria. The company also produces ZeroFly, which is a defence against insect pests for livestock and crop protection. Vestergaard also initiates programs to enhance delivery of its products: the company bundles LifeStraw and PermaNet together into a CarePack of preventive health tools to encourage people to get tested for HIV; LifeStraw has been distributed as part of the LifeStraw Carbon for Water program, where nearly 900,000 water purifiers were distributed in Kenya through funding provided by carbon offsets.
- LifeStraw. A water filter designed to be used by one person to filter water for drinking. It filters a maximum of 1000 litres of water, enough for one person for one year. It removes almost all of waterborne bacteria and parasites. In addition to the classic LifeStraw, the manufacturer also produces other styles on the LifeStraw product: the LifeStraw Family, a larger unit designed for family use, and the LifeStraw Go Water Bottle, which incorporates a LifeStraw filter into a 23-ounce plastic sports water bottle.
- PermaNet. Vestergaard is the largest producer of insecticide-treated bed nets and has distributed over half a billion nets worldwide.
- ZeroFly. ZeroFly products are insecticide-treated materials, including tarpaulins and storage bags.
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- LifeStraw Family Features
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