Championing a sustainable framework for the professional clothing industry

BCI Cotton

Sustainability is facing a resurgence in the professional clothing industry as more companies realign their values to champion resource efficiency and ethical practices. 

The PCIAW® Circular Textiles Report highlighted innovative and environmentally conscious companies that are effectively implementing circularity and recyclability into their practices. 

PCIAW® is continuing to shine a spotlight on trusted members that have sharpened a focus on sustainability and transparency through environmental accreditations and certifications. Now, it is imperative that the rest of the industry follows suit and demonstrates a collective resolve to prioritise sustainable future development.

Shirley®: unrivalled expert reassurance

Shirley®, the official OEKO-TEX® office for the UK, Singapore and Kenya, was founded in 1918 as a research institute and began looking into the effects of garment production on the environment long before ‘sustainability’ became an industry buzzword.

Shirley® provides continuing first class technical support to a global network of clients, including multinational yarn, fabric and finished product manufacturers, high street retailers, the legal profession, and regulatory testing organisations such as Trading Standards.

OEKO-TEX® builds consumer confidence 

As brands and retailers capitalise on the growing consumer interest in sustainable and ethical clothing, the industry risks turning this interest into confusion. Despite this, the textiles industry has already made significant shifts to more sustainable practices, largely due to consumer demand.

However, without a standardised body enforcing definitions of words like “sustainable” and “eco-friendly,” both of which are on-trend, brands risk obscuring the true meaning of this terminology and the science behind it, even with the best of intentions.

Now more than ever, consumers are insistent on understanding where their clothes are sourced from, how they are manufactured, and the materials they comprise. In addition, consumers are seeking independent, ethical, third party seals of approval. There is an ever-growing demand for consumer textiles to be produced in environmentally sustainable ways, accompanying a call for enhanced supply chain visibility and transparent product labelling. However, as sustainability terms become tied up in marketing tactics, trust is increasingly becoming an issue.

Reconciling perceptions of sustainability 

Recent consumer polling has demonstrated the clear confusion that exists around the term “sustainability.” Responses vary widely, including long lasting and durable garments, positive environmental impacts, reduced consumption of the earth’s natural resources, reduced emissions in terms of air and waste, and negative effects on our oceans. Others note the true human cost of global textile supply chains. Consumers have a general awareness of individual aspects of textile sustainability, however, understanding how these aspects fit together as well as the breadth of the sustainability crisis within the textile supply chain is far beyond consumer consciousness.

OEKO-TEX® turns 30

Celebrating its 30th birthday this year, OEKO-TEX® makes sustainability easy by enabling consumers and companies to make responsible decisions that protect our planet for future generations. The testing and certification process on which standards are based guarantees maximum consumer safety and, as their tag line suggests, gives way to “Inspiring Confidence” in textiles. 

A robust example of well-informed product labelling is trusted third-party certification, which increases confidence and makes it easier to shop authentically. The MADE IN GREEN label by OEKO-TEX® features prominently on thousands of products sold by brands and retailers, both online and in-store, allowing consumers to shop for chemically safe and environmentally and socially sustainable textile products.

MADE IN GREEN by OEKO-TEX® 

OEKO-TEX

MADE IN GREEN by OEKO-TEX® simplifies supply chain transparency and assures consumers that professional clothing and textiles bearing the label are manufactured in an environmentally friendly and socially responsible way. The label ensures that each product can be easily traced, offering new levels of transparency to consumers.

Through a unique product ID and QR code, the digital labelling platform provides detailed information on how and where products were manufactured as well as highlighting the different production stages at individual factories.

In order to qualify for the MADE IN GREEN® label, textiles must be STANDARD 100 and STeP certified by OEKO-TEX®. As we come into contact with numerous textiles in our everyday lives, chemicals in products can cause worrying health effects. STANDARD 100 by OEKO-TEX® gives customers, manufacturers and retailers the certainty that certified garments meet strict OEKO-TEX® criteria surrounding the control of harmful substances.

STeP®: ‘Sustainable Textile Production’ 

STeP® certification is intended for factories and textile manufacturing facilities focusing on compliance and continuous improvement in the key areas of chemical management, environmental performance and management, social responsibility, quality management, and occupational health and safety.

Brands and retailers are incentivised to respond to consumer demand for clearly defined textiles. We can safely say that transparency is good for business.

PCIAW Trusted Member

Web: www.shirley.co.uk

Tel: +44 (0)161 869 1610

Email: enquiries@shirley.co.uk


Driving sustainable development at Carrington Textiles

Sean Moore
Sean Moore, Quality Assurance Manager at Carrington Textiles

PCIAW® Editor Declan Osborn joins Sean Moore, Quality Assurance Manager at Carrington Textiles, to discuss the biggest obstacles to circular-ready fabrics, including quality of recycled fibres and why B2B messaging on sustainability requires a significant makeover. 

Carrington Textiles is the largest producer of workwear fabrics in the UK, exporting to over 80 countries worldwide. The workwear manufacturer has consolidated its position as one of the leading players in the professional clothing industry, producing over 55 million metres of fabric annually. 

What standards and certifications does Carrington Textiles work towards and why is this important? 

The main standards and certifications we work towards tend to be related to the performance and sustainability requirements of PPE. OEKO-TEX® 100 limits and restricts the use of hazardous to health substances in textiles and ISO 9001 is integral for quality management. Both are now almost mandatory requirements for a large number of customers, in addition to ISO14001 for environmental management.

We are starting to see enquiries for additional sustainable and environmental credentials. Two out of our three main fabric dyers and finishers are OEKO-TEX® STeP accredited, and the third is accredited with Bluesign®. These schemes reassure customers that the fabrics are produced in a safe and ethical manner and going forward, we believe that these schemes will continue to grow.

What was Carrington Textiles’ experience in adopting recycled fibres into its fabrics, and was the quality equal to its longstanding product range?

The initial ideas were difficult to commercialise due in part to the availability of the product. Most of the potential suppliers that we were in conversation with were only at lab or pilot scale, as well as the supply infrastructure only geared for mass volumes. However, we have recently seen changes within the infrastructure in being more willing to work with trial lots.

Recycled polyester has been around for decades now, but there are still only a small number of suppliers, and recycled cotton has an even smaller supply base. We have found some issues from a quality aspect in that the consistency of the colour of the feedstock has led to issues getting a white that’s comparable to regular virgin white. 

We also see a drop off in strength, as the final product is no doubt strong enough for the recycled polyester, but customers are used to a certain standard and if a product isn’t hitting that value, it’s perceived as lower quality.  

Is the professional clothing industry responding to sustainable fabrics positively and do you see the sustainable range being the top sellers in the Carrington range?

We see a growing trend within our sector to embrace sustainable products and it’s faster than ever before, but it’s still quite a slow moving adoption. The bigger push is coming from brands with direct contact with consumers. Traditionally, the market was mostly focused on the bottom-line cost of an article, but we are seeing more requests from the B2B and rental sectors for sustainably sourced products. At the tender stage, some countries and organisations are more focused on sustainability, with better scoring methods or mandatory requirements on the composition of sustainable, recycled products. Eventually, I can see a time where all of our products will require a sustainable element.

We see a growing trend within our sector to embrace sustainable products and it’s faster than ever before, but it’s still quite a slow moving adoption.

Carrington Textiles- Sustainable Fabric- Coolcel200Plus- Polyester with Tencel

What are the obstacles facing Carrington Textiles and the wider professional clothing industry in transitioning entirely towards sustainable fabrics? Do you see a future of 100% circular-ready fabrics?

Lack of infrastructure is probably the single biggest hurdle to circular fabrics. In the rental sector, they may have more control on collecting end-of-life garments than a distributor selling garments directly to consumers. But there are very few facilities that are capable of turning these back into fibre, and then turning fibre back into yarn. 

As a sector, we need to change our mindset and remember that whilst some sustainable measures may cost more financially, at least they won’t cost us the planet.

Facilities in Europe are limited, with their product invariably costing more than Asia, and you will still end up adding carbon miles by shipping end-of-life garments or recycled fibre around the world. Some blends, typically polycottons, are proving difficult to successfully recycle, but there are a number of systems that should be commercialised in the near future. Cost is the next obstacle, as these products are invariably more expensive. As a sector, we need to change our mindset and remember that whilst some sustainable measures may cost more financially, at least they won’t cost us the planet.

PCIAW Trusted Member

Web: www.carrington.co.uk

Tel: +44 (0)1257 476 850

Email: info@carrington.co.uk


Incorporatewear: Introducing the world’s most sustainable corporate uniform

Incorporatewear is a multiple award-winning corporatewear and uniform company headquartered in Coleshill. It is renowned for its expertise in designing personal corporate clothing solutions for clients across the world. As a PCIAW® Trusted Member, Incorporatewear has long adopted corporate social responsibility, placing sustainability at the core of its business activities. 

The corporatewear expert is committed to supplying its customers with reliable and sustainable products without compromising the future; mindful that sustainability is a journey, not a destination. 

For over 10 years, Incorporatewear has been supplying sustainable products as part of its uniform range, starting its journey with PET polyester made from reclaimed plastic as opposed to traditional polyester, a petroleum-based synthetic reliant on the continued use of fossil fuels. 

Today, Incorporatewear is working on the most sustainable corporate uniform and managed service solutions in the history of its business. The project scope has sustainable initiatives engineered throughout, including ethically sourced products and rigorous independent third party auditing procedures. 

100% recycled fabric

Through its strategic supply chain partner selection, Incorporatewear has focused on reducing its carbon footprint and using lean raw materials and finished garment ordering to reduce excess waste. The company oversees the reduction and removal, where possible, of packaging, using recycled and biodegradable alternatives to contribute zero landfill waste and ensure end-of-life product management. 

Transforming the design process

Incorporatewear identified very early on that design, sourcing, and technical teams play a critical role in the formulation and execution of its sustainability strategy. During product development, informed decision-making on sustainable designs is based on evaluating the impact across the life cycle of the product. The end-of-life stage must be considered during the initial stages and evaluated against sustainability criteria such as sustainable product content, waste reduction, transport efficiency, longevity, and reuse.

Scaling obstacles in rolling-out sustainable garments

One of the greatest challenges to the large-scale supply of sustainable products is the absence of a globally agreed definition of ‘sustainability,’ accompanied by specific criteria or guidelines in the context of apparel garments that impact awareness and understanding. Combined with a historical lack of mainstream coverage, there remains a significant focus on cost, resulting in products being viewed as commodity purchases under a transactional outlook. 

Purchasing goals need to continue to shift from merely optimising economic performance, towards sustainable products that create a better balance between the needs of today and tomorrow. 

Purchasing goals need to continue to shift from merely optimising economic performance, towards sustainable products that create a better balance between the needs of today and tomorrow.

Customers have a key role to play, with clearly defined sustainability requirements included in their product properties and managed service scope. The starting position for this can be as simple as ‘all polyester content must be 100% recycled.’

Crafting a circular future

Incorporatewear is working to reduce waste both in its operations as well as for customers, who must divert as much as possible to recycling, upcycling and circularity initiatives. There are a lot of opportunities in this space; a collaborative approach with customers and wider supply chain partners will continue to play a key role in the evolution of sustainability and the value derived from it.  

A key part of Incorporatewear’s ongoing and future sustainability strategy is customer engagement. Incorporatewear works transparently in partnership with customers to engineer the best fit sustainable solutions supporting the achievement of strategic sustainability objectives. 

Some highlights of Incorporatewear’s ongoing customer end of product life initiatives include the reconditioning of products and re-issue initiatives, engineering products for removal of customer branding, late customisation, and re-sale via charity stores or donation to developing countries, and recycling and repurposing. 

Incorporatewear is currently exploring future initiatives to enhance its vision as the most sustainable uniform supplier.  A key focal point is ‘generation rent,’ which is the management, rental, recondition and reuse of uniforms to complement a closed-loop system. 

PCIAW Trusted Member
INCORPORATEWEAR

Web: www.incorporatewear.co.uk

Tel: +44 (0) 1675 432 200

Email: enquiries@icwuk.com

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