Norway’s Fretex: We give people a reason to believe in future

Indeed, this organization started with distributing in kind donations. But, its offer has gotten larger to include social actions such as training and employment opportunities.Beyond the “dealer” of used goods etiquette, Fretex offers actually tailor-made rehabilitation services for job seekers and people socially disadvantaged.

At the end of 2011, it had approximately 2000 employees, 1600 of whom were employed under various labor market schemes, according to Trine Gjermundbo, the communication chief in the company.

This makes it today an important partner to NAV and a member of AVRE, the Norwegian Association of Vocational and Rehabilitation Enterprises.

For those who don’t know about it, Fretex was established in 1905 with a recycling plant combined with a shelter. In the beginning, it was called “Elevator” and has one location in Kristiana (old name of Oslo). Now it becomes the biggest chain in Norway with 43 second hand shops and the largest social enterprise in vocational rehabilitation in the country.

Fretex aims at giving better choices to people in difficulties as its slogan recalls: “Vi gir folk grunn til å tro på framtiden!” It tries to achieve this ambition via four major activities: recycling textile and paper, running second hand shops, offering vocational rehabilitation programs and qualifying people to competitive employment.

About donations, Gjermundbo says that Norwegian people donate 12000 ton of clothes to Fretex every year. There are 1400 containers to collect the gifts and 70 trucks do picking up furniture, clothes and all kind of goods every day.

Furthermore, Fretex has a fashion signature. The company collaborates with designers in order to redesign used clothes that cannot be sold as they are. “Silkscarves become then cushions, leather jackets make up purses and embroidered tablecloths are turned into dresses.”

Gjermundbo explains that the product development is done by professional experts in cooperation with employees in the workshops.  “Fretex Redesign” products are sold in design stores and some selected Fretex shops.  This line has also been shown at Oslo Fashion Week and other catwalks.

Aware about the importance of communication, Fretex has just launched its own magazine in order to spread the information about its products and services.  The magazine that is still right now a pilot project, is available in the second hand stores and online via the URL: http://issuu.com/fretex/docs/fretex_magasin_01_2012?mode=window&pageNumber=1 web.

Fretex is a kind of a hive with many cells that serve all the same social objective. It is definitely a concrete illustration of social entrepreneurship in the sense that its concept is totally based on seeking profitability for social benefits and not focusing on the lucrative side. Not to forget that the civic behavior of donors contributes also in expanding both the activity and the model of such company.

In that sense, Gjermundbo adds that there is a rising awareness about corporate social responsibility. “This is of course positive for our business. We get new partners and people donate because reuse is also a way to do good when it comes to environmental issues.”

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