Home>PPE>Safety Footwear>Step in the right direction

Step in the right direction

04 August 2021

Peter Dumigan talks about why speeding up the adoption of a circular economy is essential to meeting climate targets - sharing what proactive manufacturers, including Emma Safety Footwear and Snickers Workwear, are doing to accelerate change and explain how end-users and specifiers can make a difference.

IN 2019 the UK became the first major economy to commit to a legally binding net zero emissions target by 2050. This year the Government has set the world's most ambitious climate change target to reduce emissions by 78% by 2035 compared to 1990 levels. 

What's more, legally binding targets for air quality, biodiversity, water, and resource efficiency and waste reduction are coming. Under the new Environment Bill, a post-Brexit framework for environmental legislation, targets such as 'zero avoidable waste by 2050’ will become a reality for many industries. 

At the same time, to meet the expectations of increasingly socially conscious customers and investors, a growing number of companies are setting ambitious environmental targets of their own. 

Mind the gap

One of the greatest opportunities to reach these targets is to speed up the transition from a linear economy to a circular one.

A linear economy follows the model of 'take, make, dispose' where raw materials are taken to make products, and once they have reached the end of their useful life, they are disposed of.

In a circular economy, the philosophy is to 'Reduce, reuse, recycle'. This approach involves reducing the resources used during a product's manufacture, striving to keep these products in high-value use for as long as possible and ensuring they are recovered and reused at the end of their life. 

However, currently, just 8.6% of the global economy is circular, leaving a huge circularity gap. Worse still, it is widening - the volume of materials used each year is increasing, with the UN's Emissions Gap Report 2020 showing that material consumption hit a high of 100 billion tonnes, which accounted for 59.1% of greenhouse gases.

The good news is that according to the 'The Circularity Gap', a report by think tank Circle Economy, embracing the circular economy could shrink global greenhouse gas emissions by 39%. The challenge is that adopting a circular business model requires a complete transformation in how the economy operates with many businesses uncertain about where to start. 

Pioneering sustainable practice

Thankfully forward-thinking companies such as Emma Safety footwear and Snickers Workwear are already taking action and leading the way in their industries. 

Emma Safety footwear is a pioneer in sustainable practice having created the world's very first 100% circular safety shoe– and whose complete range is 100% circular.. Some of the steps Emma Safety footwear is focussed on to improve environmental performance include:

  • Producing sustainable safety footwear in collaboration with strictly selected suppliers
  • Testing all of the materials used on environmental impact
  • Helping clean up the ocean and produce laces, lining and socks from the waste
  • Using the sun to power their factory
  • Producing metal-free shoes to reduce metal mining
  • Prioritising eco-friendly packaging materials 
  • Closing the loop by taking back worn safety shoes
  • Recycling and reusing materials from old shoes and production waste to start new supply chains for entirely different products 

Meanwhile, the vision of sister company Snickers Workwear is to be at the forefront of sustainability by using smarter solutions and technologies, including sourcing the highest quality, most hard-wearing products with as little environmental impact as possible.

Some of the steps Snickers Workwear are taking to improve their environmental performance include:

  • Setting a goal on GHG emissions of a 50% reduction in scope 1 & 2 by 2030, from a base year of 2018 since which Snickers has already reduced GHG emissions by 40%. They are also in the process of setting a goal for GHG reduction in Scope 3.
  • Limiting their chemical footprint through the use of a Group-wide Restricted Substance List (RSL), which all production suppliers must sign.
  • Prioritising premium materials for premium products through their internal and external supplier assurance process (Show OEKO-TEX and Blue Design logos)
  • Prioritising ‘Preferred fibres’ - defined as fibres that have more sustainable properties in comparison to conventional options - (Goal: To source 70% of fibres as preferred fibre by 2030)
  • Ensuring garments made from Preferred fibres are comparable when it comes to durability and comfort, because creating hard-wearing products with a long product lifetime is key to reducing waste
  • Choosing the most appropriate fibre to achieve a long tire-time for a garment - this might include man-made materials, such as nylon and polyester, that can easily be recycled to create new raw material with the same performance level as the original virgin material.
  • Committing to conscious cotton choices - (Show Goal: To source 80% of cotton as more sustainable cotton by 2023") 
  • Driving demand for Better Cotton which positively impacts farmers and the environment. bettercotton.org (Show Better Cotton logo and weblink) 
  • Using a more sustainable colouring process for Polyester that significantly reduces water, chemicals and energy use – commonly referred to as dope dye.
  • Using 'Mulesing-Free' Merino Wool to prevent animal cruelty

How can you make a difference?

As manufacturers navigate the complex and challenging transition to more circular and sustainable business models, you can support them by evaluating environmental standards within your supply chains and valuing those companies who are committed to improving sustainability. Things you can do include:

  • Get to know your supply chain and seek out socially and environmentally conscious trusted suppliers
  • Invest in quality safety footwear and workwear - select products that are built to last that can be kept in use as long as possible
  • Work with suppliers on how to extend the lifespan of a garment/footwear. Responsible suppliers will be able to advise you and support you in increasing lifespan; for example, Emma Safety Footwear provides care products and advice for their footwear
  • Educate workers on the importance of looking after products to extend their longevity. It is said to be easier to select new garments or footwear than wash or maintain existing garments in some workplaces. Therefore, consider whether employees need support in looking after garments or if a maintenance service is an option. 
  • Look for the labels. Ask whether adopt the Better Cotton, OEKO-TEX, Blue Design or any other standards which can provide reassurance that high environmental standards are being followed throughout their supply chains. 

Embracing a more circular economy holds great promise to help us to achieve our climate goals and secure the health of the planet for future generations, but we must work together to be successful. If you are looking for partners in sustainability, please contact Emma Safety Footwear and Snickers Workwear to see how you can collaborate to accelerate positive change. 

Peter Dumigan is managing director of the Hultafors Group UK, which owns Snickers Workwear, Hultafors Tools, EMMA, Solid Gear and Toe Guard safety footwear as well as Hellberg Safety PPE. For more information, visit www.snickersworkwear.com

Improve your carbon footprint.

If you want to ensure 100% Circularity in what you’re wearing, a product that’s completely made from a combination of recycled materials and materials that are recyclable is EMMA - Sustainably Responsible Safety Footwear - and definitely a brand worth looking at.

EMMA is a socially responsible brand because it’s totally committed to sustainability and reducing waste. Every shoe, trainer or boot in its range is safe for the environment with a ‘100% ‘Circular’ manufacturing, usage-mapping and recycling process. So, to make a positive social impact in your workplace, if your ordinary safety footwear just isn’t contributing to your sustainability policy, you can be sure there’s an EMMA product that is.

While style, comfort and functionality have been key drivers in Snickers Workwear clothing development over the years, fabric performance and sustainability is now central to the technical design of the garments and footwear just as it is in performance sports and leisurewear. 

The result is environmentally-friendly, ergonomically designed dual-purpose working clothes and footwear that are not only designed to meet the physical demands that tradesmen and women face at work but are also ideal for some sports and leisure activities – and reducing your carbon footprint too!