Dutch humanitarian start-up Sheltersuit upcycles sleeping bags to help refugees and the homeless cope with harsh weather conditions. The firm was part of a group of six Dutch innovative companies that represented the Netherlands at the SXSW festival in the US.
The entrepreneurs started their business back in 2014 in the Dutch town of Enschede, with the ambition to provide vulnerable people protection against the elements with all-purpose clothing.
The Sheltersuit is a combination of a jacket, sleeping bag and a storage bag. This protective ensemble is manufactured from upcycled materials, like second-hand sleeping bags donated by partners and revamped by Sheltersuit’s own group of employees.
Sheltersuit currently employs 73 people, consisting of volunteers, people with special needs and individuals with poor job prospects. Another group of employees are former refugees with sewing skills who were well-established tailors in the country they fled.
By offering these individuals employment, the Dutch company helps them to improve their job prospects and be part of the labour market - guidance and training is offered to improve their chances of getting a paid job at other companies.
More and more Dutch companies are aligning with the UN sustainable development goals related to responsible business on a variety of initiatives. They focus on developing solutions that harness the full potential of what business can bring to the development table.
Helping refugees and the homeless
By gathering funds and collecting second-hand sleeping bags, Sheltersuit was able to manufacture more than 3,000 sleeping bags. These were given to the homeless in Amsterdam and to refugees in places like Sarajevo, Dunkirk, and on the Greek islands of Lesbos and Samos.