Rising to the environmental challenge with sustainable schoolwear

Sponsored: Schoolblazer details its commitment to meeting challenging environmental targets

The fashion industry produces 10% of global carbon emissions and has a poor reputation for ethical trading and sustainability. A survey by Barnardo’s in 2015 showed that the average ‘fast fashion’ garment is worn just seven times.

The 2019 parliamentary report on the fashion industry highlighted widespread abuses of both environmental and workers’ protection, not just in distant countries but in sweatshops in Leicester and across the UK. Manufacturing close to home is no guarantee of workers’ welfare and making the odd item from Chinese-sourced ‘recycled polyester’ does little to reduce the overall environmental impact of production.

Schoolblazer believes that school uniform is inherently greener: our average garment is worn over 400 times, with a clear ‘circular economy’ in secondhand. Our overriding principle is durability = sustainability. We cannot shop our way to a greener planet; consuming anything has costs and the less ‘wear’ an item offers, the more it needs to be replaced.

Our average garment is worn over 400 times, with a clear ‘circular economy’ in secondhand

We have set ourselves a series of challenging environmental targets:

1. Carbon neutrality

Schoolblazer is now a zero-carbon company. We’ve analysed our operational carbon footprint in detail and reduced our emissions where we can. Where we’ve been unable to eliminate our energy use, we have offset the carbon created through our partnership with carbon footprint.

2. Clean wastewater

We have put measures in place to ensure that all of our suppliers and mills have wastewater treatment plants that meet the highest environmental standards.

3. Removing single-use plastics

We have an ambitious plan to ‘ship naked’, which we’ll be trialling over summer 2020. However, the overwhelming majority protect our garments as they pass through our supply chain from manufacturer to our customers, so we need to ensure less than 2% of our garments are damaged in transit to avoid neutralising the benefits gained from going plastic-free. If these tests are successful, our plan is to roll-out our ‘ship naked’ system to many more garments in 2021.

4. Recycled polyester

Where possible, we are working to replace the polyester fibre in our garments with recycled polyester, with a plan for 25% of our polyester to be from recycled sources by 2022.

5. Responsible cotton

Cotton tends to be grown in areas of the world with water shortages and poor labour standards. We are a member of the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), which promotes sustainable cotton growth, teaching farmers how to manage their land and water use sustainably. We have a drive to use BCI cotton in our garments where we can, with a target of 50% BCI cotton by the end of 2022.

Human rights for all workers

Schoolblazer also has a serious commitment to ethical trading. We believe that free and fair trade is an important way to spread wealth around the world and know that the global textile trade is a major engine to lift people out of poverty. As responsible global citizens, we also know that poor working practices are no respecters of borders or laws, as recent scandals involving slave conditions in some of Leicester’s textile factories show. The solution is to adopt consistent standards across our supply base and ensure that these are adhered to.

We are foundation members of The Ethical Trading Initiative, an organisation of retailers, NGOs and unions dedicated to driving the highest ethical standards, with a focus on the following:

Freely chosen employment

Freedom of association

Safe and hygienic workplaces

No child labour

Living wages

No excessive working hours

No discrimination

Regular employment

No harsh or inhumane treatment

For more information on each of these, visit www.schoolblazer.info/wecare

For more information on our partnership with the ETI, visit www.ethicaltrade.org/blog/new-member-focus-schoolblazer

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