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First Corporate Clothing

First Corporate Clothing

New waste reduction scheme launched by a South Wales workwear manufacturer saves 500kg of old uniforms from going to landfill.

First Corporate Clothing is a workwear provider, based in Port Talbot, supplying staff uniforms, both from stock and to clients’ bespoke requirements. Having previously benefitted from the help of a Growth Adviser, General Manager Kirstee David got in touch with the Welsh Government’s Business Wales service to discuss further available support with a focus on sustainability.

  • advice on growing the business
  • HR and skills support
  • sustainability advice on new waste reduction scheme as well as measuring the environmental and social impact of the business

Introduction to business

With over 20 years’ experience in the manufacturing industry, Port Talbot-based First Corporate Clothing is a corporate clothing and workwear provider. The business is one of the few manufacturers to have stock produced in their own UK factories with many of their fabrics milled specifically for them.

First Corporate Clothing supplies staff uniforms, both from stock and for custom contracts and specialises in the whole manufacturing process, from design, manufacture, logistics and branding to full account management. This has enabled quick turnaround times making the business a leading entity in the corporate uniform suppliers’ market.

Why is sustainability important to your business?

As a UK manufacturer, we are by nature more sustainable than our competitors and where possible, we use fabrics milled in the UK. There is a niche in the market for sustainably made uniforms and we secure work time and time again because of our UK manufacturing capabilities – we have passed the scrutiny of many a Sustainability Manager.

The garments do not have to travel thousands of miles to be delivered, which is a massive selling point. UK manufacturing also supports the local economy and keeps the sector alive. The South Wales area has a long history of garment production and while a number of companies over the years have moved their manufacturing overseas, we have held steadfast and have weathered difficult economic times. We are seeing a healthy surge in the demand for garments made in the UK, especially with Brexit looming. We also recycle 75% of our waste with zero waste going to landfill. We utilise our discontinued stock in several ways: donate to the homeless, to local food banks, to amateur dramatics groups and to a local sewing bee.

We are currently collaborating with two other businesses in setting up a social enterprise. The project is to set up a garment manufacturing facility in Ebbw Vale. The area had a wealth of factories up until a few years ago when the companies moved their manufacturing overseas. The area is rich with skilled machinists and cutters, which is ideal for us. This is a project championed by the Welsh Government in support of the changes made to Welsh public service contracts, stating that at least 10% of purchases should be made with a Welsh business.

Why did you approach the Welsh Government’s Business Wales service?

First Corporate Clothing had a long-standing relationship with our Growth Adviser Jamie Reynolds, who has provided recruitment support for several years. He re-engaged with us to share the various support services now available through Business Wales. When I met with Jamie for the first time to discuss how important sustainability was to us and the work that we had been doing with regards to our commitment to the environment, he put us in touch with a Business Wales Sustainability specialist, Iain Cox.

Iain advised on the business, its sustainability as well as what part First Corporate could play in the circular economy. We initially signed up to the (Business Wales) Green Growth Pledge with a commitment to reduce waste, measure and manage our environmental and social impact by calculating our carbon savings. Over the months, we came up with an idea for a unique recycling scheme. As part of the scheme, we wanted to raise awareness of textile waste to landfill, especially in the corporate wear industry. Neither we, nor any of our competitors, actively advocate the responsible disposal of old uniforms, and we have no doubt that when new uniforms are supplied, employees in the main would throw their old ones in the bin.

We set up a free of charge recycling service whereby recycling receptacles are placed at our customers’ premises so that their staff could dispose of the old uniform responsibly. This could then either be broken down into felt and flocking to be recycled, or it would be shipped overseas to be used for its original purpose, therefore supporting a circular economy. We canvassed our top customers and to date we have collected and saved 500kg of old uniforms from going to landfill, with more customers signed up. We have encountered some teething problems in setting up the scheme with regards to finding a recycling company which would be the best fit for the project. Keeping the scheme free of charge to encourage customers to use it is key, but it comes with a challenge as costs also need to be low for the recycling company.                 

Outcomes

  • support with growing the business, R&D tax credits and efficiency of costs within the business, leading to a 15% cost reduction
  • HR and skills support
  • sustainability advice including measuring and minimising carbon impact and launching a new garment recycling scheme

The initial contact with Jamie Reynolds has really given us the opportunity to understand the nature of the services offered by Business Wales. We have talked about R&D support and funding, and (an HR adviser) Amelia O' Sullivan has been really helpful with HR issues. As a small business, we do not have a dedicated HR Manager, our General Manager looks after this function and with 32 members of the team, keeping up to date with policies is key. The advice on contracts and appraisals has been exceptional.

Iain has been of great support over the last year, sharing information about the Green Growth Pledge and offering his advice and knowledge to assist us in bringing our recycling scheme to fruition. He gave us the tools and support to monitor and measure the impact that our scheme will have environmentally and socially.

Future plans and ambitions

In the short term, we would like to successfully roll out our recycling scheme to as many of our customers as possible with a view to perhaps making it a contractual obligation. Long term, we would like to see this as a standard practice in the industry and see the business recognised for setting the standard for all to follow.

If you want to read more success stories of how Business Wales has helped other people like you to start or grow their businesses, visit https://businesswales.gov.wales/case-studies or follow @_businesswales / @_busnescymru on Twitter.

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