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How NuServe sourced sustainable uniforms from charity shop
Simon Duke, managing director of family-run office cleaning and support services business, NuServe, describes how the company's views on sustainability led to a tie-in with a local charity shop:
"At NuServe, we're on a mission to make our procurement practices more sustainable. We want to achieve this while working within circular economy principles that minimise waste, pollution and carbon emissions. This ethos applies to all areas of our business, from cleaning supplies to uniforms.
The reason? The environmental cost of clothing is huge. From production through to disposal, almost every stage of an item of clothing's life cycle can cause damage to the planet. For example, most of the cotton grown is not organic and contributes to environmental pollution through the use of pesticides and insecticides. Washing clothes releases 500,000 tonnes of microfibres into the oceans every year. That's the equivalent of 50,000 plastic bottles. These microfibres cannot be extracted from the water and so spread throughout the food chain. Then there is the waste.
Since 2000, clothing production has more than doubled to keep up with demand as people buy more clothes but wear them for less time. As a result of our disposable, throwaway society, 350,000 tonnes (around £140 million worth) of used but still wearable clothing ends up in landfill in the UK every year, according to Clothes Aid.
Therefore, we want to do our bit to reduce the clothing industry's impact on the world around us. As part of our Planet Mark and B Corp commitments, we searched long and hard to source eco-friendly uniforms but couldn't find a viable supplier.
So, we approached the Royal Trinity Hospice's Charity Shop to see if it had any second-hand clothing that could be used for our uniforms. Fortunately, a well-known designer brand had donated a load of unsold white shirts to the charity. We purchased 20 for use as part of our uniform for managers.
In so doing, we made a procurement decision that had an economic, environmental and social impact.
* We saved money
* We helped protect the environment
* We supported a charity that provides free specialist palliative and end of life care
Purchasing office shirts from a charity shop was uncharted territory for both NuServe and Royal Trinity Hospice as this was the first time Royal Trinity Hospice had received a request of this nature.
The entire process was seamless. Royal Trinity Hospice staff understood exactly what we needed and went out of their way to help. We were also lucky that this was a viable solution for NuServe because, as a company, we hit the sweet spot of being dynamic, flexible, and small enough to have our order accommodated without compromising on professionalism and neatness.
Businesses do not realise that vapid consumerism means many garments found in charity shops, especially in the case of Royal Trinity Hospice, are firstly quality brands and secondly unworn or near pristine, for a very rewarding price.
NuServe is always looking for new ways to collaborate with like-minded companies and the voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) sector. Our collaboration with Royal Trinity Hospice continues as we divert misplaced or forgotten clothing from our clients' offices to the charity shop."
The environmental cost of clothing:
- 3,781 litres of water are needed to make a pair of jeans.
- 87% of the fibre used for clothing is incinerated or disposed of in landfill.
- The fashion industry is responsible for 10% of global carbon emissions (more than international flights and maritime shipping combined).
- Approximately 20% of the world's wastewater comes from fabric dyeing and treatment.
Statistics from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
21st October 2021