Workwear and safety clothing

The Workwear and safety clothing product group is very appropriate for circular procurement. The life cycle is comparatively short and the materials are relatively easy to reuse. Moreover, the clothing industry is one of the most polluting industries worldwide: it is responsible for about 8% of total CO2 emissions, while approximately 60% of all clothing is discarded within a year [+source: Quantis (2018), Measuring fashion]. Circular procurement of clothing could significantly reduce the environmental impact.

The procurement of clothing often concerns workwear or safety clothing. It is relatively easy to apply circular principles for workwear, for example: reusing materials. The strict technical requirements for the reused materials make circular procurement for safety clothing more complex and reuse of existing material is not always possible.  Extending the service life of clothing will also lead to major environmental gains, e.g. by cleaning and maintaining the clothing properly to make clothing last longer.

Aspects of circular textiles

With regard to workwear and safety clothing, too, it is important to make clear what you understand by ‘circular economy’. Rijkswaterstaat has defined the following characteristics for circular textiles:

  • it can be recycled: design for recycling;
  • it is made from recycled textile materials: recycling in design; and
  • there is a recycling system available, so recycling can actually take place.

Determine which aspects best fit your needs and validate this in a market consultation to make sure the market has the capacity to translate your ambitions into reality.

Value chain cooperation in the clothing sector

For workwear, there are in fact two different value chains that often operate independently. One is the production chain of new clothing including the suppliers. The other is the value chain responsible for the extension of service life, such as repair and maintenance. At the end of the life cycle, clothing is still frequently discarded or fiberised without involving either of these two value chains. To follow a circular model for clothing therefore requires cooperation within and between these value chains.

Environmental impact of clothing

The production chain for clothing is comparatively polluting. The environmental impact can be made transparent by performing a life cycle analysis (LCA) of the clothing. Currently it is not common practice for this product group to include an LCA in a tender, unlike for instance, civil and hydraulic engineering. Include a request for an LCA in your procurement project but do not use this as an award criterion.

Working conditions in international value chains

Working conditions in the clothing chain are not always adequate. Due to a lack of transparency in the value chains, it is often difficult to determine the conditions under which the clothing is produced. A procurement project for clothing should therefore emphasize international social conditions and include value chain transparency.

Tips

  • In many cases, the clothing chain is currently not prepared for value chain cooperation. To improve this, you should incorporate value chain cooperation in your ambitions as a means of achieving your circular aspirations as far this is proportionate for your request.
  • The focus in value chain cooperation ought to be on cooperation between suppliers and maintenance partners, as well as on increased transparency of the international supply chain.
  • Help the sector to create transparency by asking your suppliers for information on the environmental impact, without making this a part of your award process.

Inspiring examples

Background information

Suggestions and/or additions?