Improving the Sustainability of Professional Clothing
In response to growing demand from procurement teams, in this report Business in the Community (BITC) sets out practical recommendations to increase the adoption of circular economy principles in professional clothing value chains.
About Improving the Sustainability of Professional Clothing
In 2011 approximately 11.6 million people in the UK, a third of the total workforce, were given professional clothing1. An estimated £140 million worth (350,000 tonnes) of used clothing goes to landfill in the UK every year2. A significant amount of this is likely to be professional clothing. In addition the textiles industry faces well-documented sustainability challenges from waste and carbon, as well as human rights. Professional clothing such as workwear, personal protective equipment (PPE) and uniforms is therefore an increasing concern for many businesses looking to manage sustainability risks in their supply chains.
With the support of the Professional Clothing Industry Association Worldwide (PCIAW®), and as part of the Interreg North Sea Region ProCirc project, BITC facilitated dialogue between procurers from diverse sectors as well as key decision makers in the professional clothing supply chain, providing insights into manufacturing, supplying, procurement, and recycling processes. Improving the Sustainability of Professional Clothing sets out our findings. It shares unique insights into what is needed to improve the sustainability of the workwear sector, as well suggesting principles which can be incorporated into workwear procurement.
The circular economy model
The traditional model of production and consumption is a linear one. It moves in a straight line from production to consumption to disposal. However with increased awareness of limited resources and climate change concerns, the need for sustainability in all areas of business has become more important. The circular economy offers an alternative way of using resources to a linear economy. Resources are designed for longer lifetimes, repair, re-use and reprocessing. We need to redesign how resources are used to achieve a zero-carbon economy.
The circular economy offers an alternative way of using resources to a traditional, linear economy. Resources are designed for longer lifetimes, repair, re-use and reprocessing. It is evident that we need to redesign how resources are used to achieve a zero-carbon economy.
Read BITC’s Circular Office Guide to learn how to retain the value of materials, keeping them in circulation and eliminating waste in the workplace. This guide draws on the expertise of BITC’s Circular Economy Taskforce, and experiences from a range of organisations.
Business in the Community (BITC) is a partner in the ProCirc project. This is an EU initiative from Interreg, to fund and test circular economy pilots and procurement practices to tackle the issue of raw material usage, waste, and CO2 emissions. BITC has received Interreg funding to support businesses to adopt circular procurement principles and upscale the impact of ProCirc through resources such as this Improving the Sustainability of Professional Clothing report.
Business in the Community and climate action
BITC wants every business to become climate positive, which starts with developing a robust, science-based climate resilience strategy with ambitious net zero carbon targets. We inspire and support our members, working with both those who are on the journey and those yet to start. Through guidance, resources and events, we equip businesses to set targets, develop inclusive action plans with employees, suppliers and community stakeholders. We also campaign for government action to support these actions.
- WRAP (2012) A review of corporate wear arisings and opportunities. No longer available online.
- WRAP (2012) Valuing our clothes: The true cost of how we design, use and dispose of clothing in the UK