Social entrepreneurship with Gandae

Social and commercial economy go hand in hand.

16 April 2021

Sustainable entrepreneurship is not just about recycling and energy consumption but also - and primarily - about people. For the production of its promotion materials Unilin calls on Gandae and its social enterprise workers.

A strong partnership

What started in 1998 with several one-off assignments has developed into a strong partnership between both companies. So strong in fact that every day almost two dozen Unilin staff work at the site of social enterprise Gandae in Ghent, where they manufacture all Unilin samples together with some 50 Gandae executives and social economy workers.

“The collaboration between Gandae and Unilin boils down to Gandae supplying the infrastructure and the workforce while Unilin takes care of the materials, machines and the internal production flow. Amongst others, Gandae’s management provides coaching for the social economy workers during the execution of the various assignments/activities.”
Supply Chain Manager Marketing Materials Liesbeth Vandaele 

Automate & optimise 

Gandae director Björn Joos points out that such a far-reaching interconnection between social enterprise and principal was unique in the sector at the time. He attributes the close collaboration with Unilin to the future vision of both companies as well as the social and economic investments both sides have made in close consultation in recent years.

“The introduction of the Uniclic system signalled the start of this intense collaboration. In 2003 we even built a second facility in the port of Ghent specifically for this purpose. Unilin invested in new machines there to allow the automation of certain aspects of the production process while keeping the work volume for Gandae feasible.”
Director Gandae Björn Joos 

According to Björn Joos the presence of Unilin motivates the social enterprise to keep optimising its performance. He points amongst others to Unilin’s ambition to become a zero harm company. This stimulated us to also strengthen our focus on safety, not just in the Unilin department but on both sites.

Job satisfaction galore 

Cindy Van Rysseghem, one of the first social economy workers to work exclusively on Unilin products, has her workstation at ‘the swatch’ and still feels in her element, even after all those years.

“I’ve done all sorts of jobs for Unilin.It’s always neat when new orders for swatches or samples have to be processed. With good coaching and a proper explanation from our executives I quickly get the hang of it.” 
Cindy Van Rysseghem

Expansion in the port of Ghent 

Today Gandae has room for another twenty additional social economy workers and Unilin also has a number of vacancies.

“In addition to the economic context, applicants must also be well aware of the social character of the job at the Gandae site”, says
Liesbeth Vandaele

Sustainable = social

To plant manager Leonie Declerck that social angle brings added value to her job.

“Together with the board of directors and senior management at Gandae we make sure that social economy workers can continue to carry out their job with respect for their needs and possible limitations. Social and commercial economy go hand in hand here. Local production is also part of social entrepreneurship.”
Leonie Declerck Plant Manager Gandae