Wednesday March 15, 2023

Carbon Neutral and Beyond: Sustainability at Tailored Image

Carbon Neutral and Beyond: Sustainability at Tailored Image

Achieving Carbon Neutral status has been a significant milestone for Tailored Image in its sustainability journey. However, as Brendan Birt, Operations Director at Tailored Image and Head of its Sustainability Task Force, explains, the momentum gathered during the certification process must continue.

Brendan talks to us about what sustainability means in real terms for the clothing industry and how Tailored Image is adopting all possible measures in the race to zero carbon.

‘It has long been recognised that the garment industry must do more to reduce our negative impact on the environment. This is fast becoming a top requirement for many of our clients who now want to see actual evidence that we are proactively addressing these issues. Until recently, our industry was predominately commercially driven. Clients wanted a uniform solution for their requirements which involved us, as corporate clothing suppliers, simply providing a quality uniform solution and related services at a competitive price only. This led to an approach to uniform supply which was ‘take, make and waste’. In simple terms, we would take the raw materials, make the clothing products and when the end of the life of the product was reached, they were put into waste, usually in landfill, with only a minimal number of garments able to be repurposed.

Sustainability Task Force

However, with the ever-growing realisation that our resources are not infinite and reflecting on the global damage of this approach, as a responsible and ethical clothing company, we quickly moved away from such principles to a sustainability first mindset approach. This has been driven largely by the Sustainability Task Force which I am honoured to chair; a group of driven, enthusiastic individuals representing every department in our business who share the common values which define us as we lead the sustainability charge. The team, which meets monthly, focuses on presenting ideas and innovation for review and subsequent action, driving us towards a more environmentally optimum solution for both our own business and for the benefit of our clients.

To date, this task force has, amongst other advancements, implemented the following significant changes across our organisation:

  • Replacement of single-use polybags with 100% biodegradable polybags or recyclable polybags.
  • Shirt packing boards now produced using 100% recycled cardboard – completely eliminating the plastic coating on current packing boards.
  • Removal of plastic clips and nickel base metal grips in shirt/blouse/tunic folding process, replaced with metal clips – eliminating plastic.
  • Introduction of multi-packed garment option for customers – significantly reducing the need for individual single-use plastic wrapping.
  • Use of recycled cardboard boxes, and where possible, reused for person packs.Introduction of 100% recycled/reusable person pack and mailing bags including reinforced paper as opposed to the traditional single-use plastic parcel bags.
  • Achieved Carbon Neutral Status – January 2023.

These measures have combined to result in an approximate 70% reduction (2021 compared with 2017) in our annual volume of operationally necessary single-use plastics and have vastly contributed towards our Zero Carbon target. For further discussion on our recycling initiatives, visit our Recycling blog here.

Uniforms in a Circular Economy

As an environmentally proactive business, Tailored Image has, for more than a decade, been at the forefront of the UK garment and managed services industry in providing innovative solutions to corporate wear. This was recognised in 2021 at the Professional Clothing Industry Association Worldwide Awards, where Tailored Image won for the Most Sustainable Corporate Uniform (easyJet), with a key element the removal of single-use plastics from the service provision model as well as the use of 45 recycled plastic bottles in every suit of the uniform range.

In essence, this uniform range is a demonstration of the ‘circular economy’ in action; indicative of our move from a system of waste to one of ‘endless resourcefulness’. This more regenerative model affords a viable business opportunity that helps to successfully tackle environmental priorities, drive performance, innovation, and competitiveness, and stimulate economic growth and development.

With this process in mind, we have opted to use products across our uniform range that offer an elongated life cycle, through the quality of both the raw materials and the standard of manufacture. This results in us offering clients a longer life expectancy on their garments, e.g. with most of our corporate suiting ranges lasting for up to 18 months versus 12 months for older production. Although this involves higher initial input costs, this result easily compensates for the additional spending with life cycles increasing by up to 50%.

A further example of our progress in this field is our clean and reuse service. This involves a client returning worn garments to us for upcycling when an employee leaves their employment. The process involves us bringing the garments back, carrying out a full examination, where possible repairing any faults which the garment might have and finally laundering the garments before resending back to the client to be worn again by a new employee.

Operational Changes

Aside from uniforms themselves, our sustainability drive pervades the business across every level and at every opportunity we’re embracing carbon efficiencies. All our energy on our main site is now derived from renewable sources, with all its electricity generated from green tariffs. As our company vehicles have come up for renewal, each has been replaced with 100% electric models.

In terms of office waste, we have a dedicated agency which collects and sorts our waste, resulting in a mere less than 1.5% of our waste heading for landfill. This comprehensive process involves the recycling/repurposing of plastics, including single use, which is derived via third party issue to our supply chain, via our Approved Suppliers Shred Station and Viridor. In regards to paper consumption, the aim is to eventually operate a paperless office. The introduction of electronic invoice approval for suppliers and customers has already achieved a 35% reduction on printing costs with further improvements imminent.

Sustainable Procurement

Of course, our own approach to sustainability is not enough to guarantee our end products achieve the credentials we work so hard to achieve, and so our efforts must extend into our supply chain. Our carefully considered Sustainability Policy sets out our company’s aims and objectives when it comes to procuring goods, works and services and provides a framework against which we have set these measurable aims and objectives for improvement.

We insist that our suppliers are committed to the initiative from environmental experts Worldwide Responsible Apparel Producers (WRAP) – the Sustainable Clothing Action Plan (SCAP) and are focused on working to collective industry targets. Indeed, our main suppliers hold the “WRAP” Gold accreditation which allows us to take a collaborative approach to social compliance certification in which we work with our suppliers to ensure that they remain in compliance with the “WRAP” 12 points of principle. These aims include reducing the amount of waste that ends up in landfill and improving the traceability of raw materials in our supply chain. Under WRAP guidelines, producers are responsible for submitting the type and amount of raw material used in the products. We also register the country of origin of the materials, fabrics and manufacturing plants which means we can trace where they are being sourced from. This, added to the fact our fabric mills are all operated on Clean Green energy gives our customers the peace of mind that their uniforms have been sourced and manufactured sustainably.

The Road to Zero

What of the future? Whilst carbon neutral feels like an achievement, our ultimate goal is to be a zero carbon company. With our Task Force in operation and all our wheels in motion, we will ensure this vision becomes a reality. Watch this space!’