Such is the view of Fredy Zwenger, Managing Director of SCHOOL-MOOD GmbH, a company that develops and manufactures premium satchels in Ellerau near Hamburg. In this interview, Mr Zwenger, himself a father of two, tells us what makes SCHOOL-MOOD satchels particularly high-quality and climate-neutral.
Mr Zwenger, would you please briefly introduce your company and outline your position in it?
Fredy Zwenger: As the Managing Director of SCHOOL-MOOD GmbH, I am responsible for business operations in the area of sales and the development of the schoolbags. My partner, Martin Pancke, is responsible for controlling and procurement. Together with our staff of nearly 20 employees, we make school satchels and luggage.
Can you briefly describe the satchel market to us?
F. Z.: The German market has a potential for around one million satchels a year. This is made up, on the one hand, of the annual school enrolment of around 700,000 children and, on the other, additional purchases after one or two years of using the satchel. Yes, satchels are an international product, but the field of high-priced products is more likely to be restricted to the market found in the German-speaking countries. Germany places the highest demands on satchels and the like. In other countries, considerably less attention is paid to the issue and children tend to carry simple backpacks and schoolbags to school.
What does your company stand for and what is your corporate philosophy?
F. Z.: The SCHOOL-MOOD brand stands for innovation and particularly sophisticated consumer service. We are always breaking new ground and, since the company was founded in 2003, we have developed several innovations that are now commonplace, such as the chest and lap belt. Or the first CO2-neutral schoolbag.
According to that then, you are a specialist for climate-neutral satchels and accessories. What is the typical background of a climate-neutral satchel and how does it differ from the majority that are on the market?
F. Z.: Naturally, we do everything to reduce the emission of pollutants during production. This is why our producer has installed the latest technology. However, since CO2 emissions are essentially also released during the general process of production and transport, we have found a partner in Germany who checks and evaluates all the production processes, transport, packaging and so on. This results in a sum that we pay as compensation. This money is used to reforest trees, which, in turn, are CO2-friendly. Of course, we use recycled PET bottles for our materials; we don’t use PVC; cardboard is made from 100% FSC recycled material; our pens are wood-free and are also produced from material that is, to a large extent, recycled, and our coatings are largely PFC-free. We are still looking for new and innovative ways to make our products even more valuable from an ecological point of view. All the materials we use are harmless and subjected to continuous testing.
What kind of satchel does the typical #FridaysforFuture pupil carry? Have you noticed any trends and shifts in consumer behaviour towards more ecological products when buying a schoolbag?
F. Z.: Older pupils at secondary schools usually carry backpacks. Greta, for example, has a simple backpack made by Björn Borg. However, pupils‘ awareness is generally growing and more and more children, even those of primary school age, are thinking about the qualities of the products they use and are questioning a lot of things. We’re getting a very positive response from both parents and children with our climate-neutral backpacks.
How do you test your products as regards strength, durability, safety, closeability and service life?
F. Z.: Our materials are subject to a very high standard of quality, because we offer a four-year guarantee on our products. The products undergo several long-term tests and are checked in our producer‘s labs under the supervision of our quality control department. We are constantly improving the quality of the individual components so as to always be at the cutting edge of technology.
How can retailers tell whether a satchel is climate-friendly and good for a child’s health?
F. Z.: You can quickly identify such products as they come with certificates and awards. The individual products stand out on account of the numerous quality seals they’ve been given. Our satchels, for example, have received the seal of approval from the German Institute of Health and Ergonomics (IGR) because they are "ergonomic products" and the ClimatePartner logo is very familiar in the sector and among end consumers.
Tell us which design is currently especially popular and why? Which design will be new in the 2020 range? And who determines the design?
F. Z.: We have a young team of designers who constantly keep themselves up-to-date regarding the latest trends. The influence of our sales team also contributes to the design process via the comments and wishes of our specialist retailers and end customers. Themes that are popular among children such as football, dinosaurs, animals, horses, unicorns and hearts are still very much in fashion. Prints from the 1970s are becoming the next big thing.
One last question: Is it still the in thing to offer satchels with designs meant to appeal to either girls or boys?
F. Z.: Yes, making this distinction is still essential for children. Our society shapes children from the time they are babies as to whether they are boys or girls. In most cases, it is a "no-no" for a child to try out a satchel aimed at the opposite sex. But, naturally, there are also girls who deliberately choose, for example, a football satchel or boys who choose a design with dolphins.
Thank you, Fredy Zwenger, for answering our questions.
About the author:
The freelance journalist on organic issues and #motherof4 Doreen Brumme blogs on doreenbrumme.de about how to enjoy a green lifestyle at work, in school and at home.