The production, distribution and care of clothing all have an impact on the environment. If you want your business to become more sustainable, this is the area you need to address. One British company, London-based Jermyn Street Design (jSD), has helped clients to lead innovation in the design of their uniforms for over forty years. We asked jSD Founder Susanne Malim to show our readers some tips and tricks that focus on the operational, cost, and other obstacles to the sustainability of clothes at work. 

jSD pioneered the first all-natural uniform for the Body Shop in 1994, so designing with natural resources in mind is nothing new for us. Now our teams are continuing and expanding this work through the Green Thread Range. This initiative is meant to help brands switch to sustainable and customizable workwear without disruption or waste.

12 steps to a sustainable workwear brand 

Even though sustainability is becoming critical for long term growth, many brands struggle to start their transformation towards more sustainable production. This is where a well-planned strategy comes into play. At jSD, we follow a 12-step process to design a durable uniform that uses fewer resources. I’ll walk you through some of them in more detail.  

  1. Find recycled or natural alternatives to your textiles
  2. Design for recycling at the end of use  
  3. Reduce the environmental cost of materials and shipping 
  4. Reduce or eliminate packaging 
  5. Audit your supply chain to ensure sustainable compliance 
  6. Create durable design for a long lifespan  
  7. Keep it local and minimize your carbon footprint 
  8. Minimize the transport footprint using smarter logistics  
  9. Reduce returns by picking the right size of clothing  
  10. Save energy with proper garment care  
  11. Recognize the best option for the product end of life management  
  12.  Engage your employees to raise the sustainability awareness 

Where to start when designing sustainable clothing? 

Here we outline just a couple of steps any company can follow to ensure they are setting off on the right path towards a more sustainable employee clothing initiative.

Audit materials 

At jSD, we encourage clients to begin the process with an audit of the materials in an existing range. This action should help them predict positive changes that would come from the transition to more sustainable fabrics.  

Simply replacing fabrics, zips, buttons, and other trims on an existing design with recycled or natural materials can have a significant impact on the environment. Fabrics manufactured with sustainable power sources make a massive difference to the local environment. A simple fabric change can double the lifespan of individual clothing items without increasing the cost.

Use the right packaging 

an image showing a person holding sustainable clothing.

We are all educated on the impact of packaging and the need to eliminate single-use plastics. The thing most people still don’t know is that bulky packaging also increases distribution costs.  

Using recyclable packaging can have many benefits. First of all, this option keeps plastics away from landfills and reduces the energy needed for the production of packaging.

Secondly, recyclables lower the overall carbon output.  To reduce the packaging used in distributing its uniforms, companies can, for instance, create a custom method of packaging shirts, without the plastic clips and collar stays.

Choose local production 

Continuing the focus on transport and distribution leads to further reductions in the carbon footprint of a uniform range.  Supply chains must be configured to minimize the impact of transport on the environment. You can do so by manufacturing garments closer to where they are needed.   

Take proper care for the garment  

Garment care is also often overlooked. We encourage clients to adopt fabrics that can be washed at 30 degrees or cooler and offer them ‘cold wash’ trials.  Washing at cooler temperatures not only saves energy and puts fewer pollutants into the water supply, but also extends garment lifespan.   

Dont forget the old clothing 

Brands often pay little attention to old clothing, yet the sustainable initiative doesn’t finish with the end of the workwear lifespan. We think this is where the biggest gains are and businesses should recognize when to re-use, recycle, or even biofuel the old workwear.  

Investing in sustainability for a brighter future  

We understand that some companies don’t know where or how to begin with sustainable initiatives, but they need to comprehend how urgent these are for the sake of our planet. Moreover, once a business takes that first step, the next one becomes much easier and encourages a new way of thinking about what sustainability efforts can companies invest in different business areas.

Even with these small steps, results become visible quickly and inspire companies to continue to invest in more sustainable solutions in all business areas. Designing sustainable clothing is a part of an evolving process, but one which generates instant and lasting benefits for the business and the planet.   

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