Pressalit: Improving the world one bathroom at a time
Text: Signe Hansen | Photos: Pressalit
Some companies claim that you cannot operate a successful business on a value-based management model. Danish Pressalit is the proof that they are wrong. On top of being one of the world’s leading manufacturers of regular and accessible bathroom solutions, the family-owned business is heading a number of award-winning CSR programmes.
It all started with a toilet seat. In 1952, rather by coincidence, two carpenters discovered the perfect material for toilet seats. Two years later, Pressalit was born. Fast-forward to year 2020, and the company is – with 300 employees, worldwide distribution and a cupboard full of business, CSR, and design awards – one of the world’s leading producers of bathroom solutions. But despite the increase in scale, Pressalit is still managed and owned by Kim and Dan Boyter, the grandsons of one of the company’s first owners.
The continued private ownership is one of the reasons why Pressalit has been able to invest in new developments in a way that other ownership structures would never have allowed. The most remarkable result of this is the production of accessible toilets and kitchens that have changed the lives of disabled people all over the world. “If someone had looked at it with a regular business perspective, we’d had to answer to shareholders, for instance; then the more care-focused part of Pressalit would not have existed,” explains Claus Lund Albertsen, Nordic sales director at Pressalit. “However, the Boyters were determined to increase the focus on care-related projects. They invested in it and built an organisation where the focus on accessibility for all resulted in being able to develop products exclusively with a healthcare purpose rather than adapting standard products to make them accessible for people with disabilities.”
The result is a range of products that are not just flexible, adjustable and hygienic, but also modern and tasteful to the extent that they have attracted a string of design awards.
A dream bathroom
One of the many people to have had their life-quality improved by Pressalit is 14-year-old Laura. Suffering from muscular dystrophy, Laura grew up dependent on her mother’s help. However, unsurprisingly, as she became a teenager, Laura developed a strong desire for independence, especially in the bathroom. Thus, as neither of the family’s existing two bathrooms met Laura’s needs, they contacted Pressalit. Tailored to meet Laura’s current and future needs, the bathroom Pressalit built became not just functional but also elegant – and it fulfilled Laura’s dream of getting her own make-up table. “Refurbishing Laura’s bathroom was a way of helping her gain the life she wanted; most teenagers find it far from cool to be reliant on their mother’s help to shower, so it was a way of making her feel respected and dignified in her situation,” explains Albertsen and continues: “It is our main objective to help people be more self-reliant – both at home and when they are in hospital or later in life in a care home.”
But it is not just Laura who has benefitted from the new bathroom. With a height-adjustable adult changing table installed in the bathroom, Helen, Laura’s mother, can now care for Laura’s needs in a position that does not compromise her back. “During the first week after the completion, I cried for joy of no longer having back pain,” she says.
Adding value through increased accessibility
Pressalit’s adult changing tables are also installed in many public and private care facilities, where they help staff avoid back injuries and pain. For the benefit of carers, Pressalit is furthermore working on getting the tables into more public bathrooms. “Many social caretakers have back issues, because the bathrooms in care facilities are not equipped in a way that allows the carers to care properly. That’s what we want to change,” explains Albertsen. “For people in wheelchairs, the lack of adult changing tables in public toilets can be a major limiting factor in their ability to leave the house and go out with a carer. Many don’t have any option other than to be changed on bathroom floors, which is unacceptable.”
The desire to improve the lives of people living with different disabilities is behind the development of Pressalit’s new height-adjustable kitchens. “The common denominator for all our care-related products is that they are designed to make people as independent as possible. It’s about preserving their dignity and their independence; with the adjustable kitchen, for instance, a family father, who has been in an accident or otherwise lost some of his mobility, may still be able to care and cook for his family,” explains Albertsen.
Making a difference locally…
Distributed all over the world, Pressalit’s products are making a difference in the lives of people everywhere. But perhaps the company has influenced the people of Ry, where the Pressalit factory is and always was located, most of all. With a strong focus on social responsibility, the company has implemented a number of policies and structures to help local people who are struggling, to regain their confidence and get back on the job market. For instance, Pressalit’s service staff, such as cleaners and kitchen staff, are people with physical or mental conditions that mean they have to be employed on special terms. “The focus on social responsibility has always been at the core of Pressalit, a long time before the term CSR was even invented. It was just something you did, took in a teenager who struggled and gave them the skills and confidence to succeed,” explains chief marketing officer at Pressalit, Mette Dyhl Prola. “But since 2005, our efforts have been put into a more official structure, and we started collaborating more with government institutions.”
As part of these collaborations, Pressalit employs a number of refugees who are provided with training, general education and Danish classes. “The way we do it is that we take two people in to fill one position. That way, they can work for a week and go to school for a week. It’s a win-win for everybody,” says Prola.
… and globally
On top of Pressalit’s work in its local area, the company also works on a global scale to further the UN Sustainable Development Goals. In particular, the company focuses on the goals of Quality Education and Responsible Production and Consumption, as reflected in its own structure. In addition, Pressalit is pursuing the goal of Clean Water and Sanitation in partnership with UNICEF. And, though obviously as a provider of bathroom solutions, Pressalit has a special interest in the area of sanitation. The partnership is formed on the basis of shared values rather than on business potential. “We’ve gone all in on this development goal, just because we think it’s the right thing to do for a business like ours,” stresses Prola, and rounds off: “Our main purpose is to help make room for people in whatever situation they are in.”
Subscribe to Our Newsletter
Receive our monthly newsletter by email