By Ben Verbeeck, Marketing Coordinator at JBT Belgium.
As companies around the world are recognizing the importance of sustainability, more and more are adopting environmentally friendly practices. One area that often goes overlooked is workwear. As JBT Corporation continues its sustainability journey, the JBT site in Sint-Niklaas, Belgium has replaced its conventional with sustainable workwear.
The Problem with Conventional Workwear
Conventional workwear is often made from synthetic materials like polyester and nylon that require a significant amount of energy to produce. Additionally, the production process often involves the use of chemicals that can be harmful to both the environment and workers’ health. Once the garments are no longer useful, they are often sent to landfill, where they can take hundreds of years to decompose.
Benefits of Sustainable Workwear
Sustainable workwear, on the other hand, is made from environmentally friendly materials like organic cotton, bamboo, and recycled fabrics. This not only reduces the environmental impact of production but also improves the working conditions of those involved in the process. Sustainable workwear is also designed to be durable, meaning it lasts longer and reduces the need for frequent replacements.
Sustainable workwear can also improve worker safety and comfort. For example, garments made from natural materials like organic cotton are more breathable and softer against the skin. This can be particularly important for workers who wear protective gear for extended periods.
How JBT Sint-Niklaas, Belgium made the Switch to Sustainable Workwear
Defining our Targets
Our goal in Sint-Niklaas was to give all our employees a modern and comfortable uniform for their workwear. We created a steering team and working team to make decisions about the type of clothing we needed and conducted several clothing trials with our employees. Ultimately, we decided on a contemporary, sustainable jacket with trousers or dungarees for our operators’ normal workwear.
We opted for a rental system for our workwear, which includes washing, repairing, renewing, and distributing it.
Choosing the Right Partner
We chose CWS as our supplier. CWS provides a closed-loop system for our workwear, which is both resource-efficient and environmentally sustainable. CWS is an excellent partner for us as they focus on developing and processing durable and recyclable workwear while ensuring that their suppliers operate according to ethical and sustainability standards.
CWS practices “repair and reuse” or “circular economy”, repairing damaged clothing instead of replacing them, which is an effective way to reduce waste and conserve resources. By repairing clothing, we can extend the life of our workwear, reducing the need for new clothing to be manufactured, which in turn reduces the amount of resources and energy required to produce those new clothing items.
Additionally CWS uses resource-efficient washing and drying processes in their industrial laundries to further help conserve resources. The reuse of fresh water, for example, can significantly reduce the amount of water needed to run the laundry, which not only conserves water but also reduces the amount of energy required to heat that water.
Overall, these practices help us to reduce our environmental impact and operate more sustainably. They can also be cost-effective in the long run, as repairing clothing is less expensive than replacing them, and the reuse of resources like water can reduce utility costs.
All of CWS’ suppliers have committed to the requirements of the Business Social Compliance Initiative (BSCI). CWS audits their suppliers in risk countries frequently to verify that they do comply with the BSCI Code of Conduct.
CWS also works with Fairtrade to focus on the initial stages of the textile value chain, where farmers grow and harvest cotton. By committing to increasing the share of Fairtrade cotton used in their workwear, CWS provides planning certainty to smallholders while also ensuring compliance with environmental, social, and safety standards during production. The local communities benefit from the Fairtrade bonus, which supports environmental and educational projects like rainwater utilization, reforestation, road construction, and education for children.
JBT – a Responsible Employer
Switching to sustainable workwear is a small but important step that JBT Belgium has taken to further its sustainability goals. By selecting environmentally friendly materials and working with ethical manufacturers, JBT improves working conditions and reduces its impact on the environment. By choosing a supplier that only uses Fairtrade cotton we support cotton farmers and assure that they receive a fair minimum price for their cotton as well as a Fairtrade bonus for community projects.