Making ‘Sustainable’ Safe: Where ticking boxes can risk everything.

When choosing PPE products for the workforce in a hugely commercialised marketplace, is safety being compromised when opting for the most sustainable option? Here, we discuss the significant challenges in play for any Chief Sustainability Officer or procurement department today.

The role of a Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO) is a challenging and fast evolving one which is still in its infancy. Developed with the purpose of interpreting the requirements of the external sustainability environment, its aim is to work out strategic consequences for the business.

A CSO is also charged with influencing, communicating and cutting through organizational complexity to allow their firm to deliver on ESG (environmental/social/governance) commitments. But when that collides with the demands of health and safety regulations there can be difficulties.

To navigate the minefield, a CSO needs to have confidence that their PPE Supplier fully understands their business needs as well as their sustainability ambitions and can be relied upon to promote the right solution. While reducing consumption may sound like an ideal solution, it can raise serious safety concerns or even be uneconomical in driving value through your PPE spend. At the same time many of the obvious routes to sustainability, such as using alternative ‘greener’ products can raise significant safety issues. Ticking every single one of the sustainability boxes without thorough investigation is not necessarily good for your business and the hazards involved.

SPOTLIGHT:

A PPE Provider with technical know-how as well as an understanding of your needs and what you want to achieve from a sustainability point of view will point to a solution like this:

The Eisen Dynogrip was developed in specific response to engineers on the ground who were consuming huge numbers of disposable gloves and additionally experiencing issues with dermatitis as well as sustaining hand injuries through a lack of grip when handling components.

Although this product is not labelled as sustainable (like some of the biodegradable options that are marketed), it could be a far more effective option from both a sustainability and safety perspective:

  • proven to reduce consumption despite initial higher product cost
  • consequently more environmentally sound
  • proven to be much stronger than biodegradable versions in some scenarios, with far better outputs
  • diamond grip represents far better control and improved safety levels
  • mitigates dermatitis by protecting against oil ingress

8 critical tasks

A recent article in the Harvard Business Review summarises the role of the CSO into just 8 critical tasks. Here, we look at those 8 distinct tasks and challenge safety concerns by examining how your PPE supplier can support you in ensuring your business becomes more sustainable, at the same time as continuing to improve safety for all.

1. Ensuring Regulatory Compliance.
Make sure your PPE supplier is on top of the trends in legislation. An Ecovadis accreditation, the global measure for CSR will give you reassurance you need.

2. ESG monitoring and Reporting.
Are PPE initiatives recommended completely trackable? Can the manufacturer prove what they claim? Your supplier should be able to provide the proof you need.

3. Overseeing the portfolio of sustainability products.
There will inevitably be many different initiatives in the PPE space and they will all need to be evaluated carefully to ensure that safety is never compromised, at the same time as guaranteeing credentials. At the same time there is also a real risk of ‘greenwash’, and so the relevance of the initiative should be assessed as well. Always avoid any novelties and gimmicks, such as so called ‘eco giveaways.’

4. Managing Stakeholders relationships.
There will inevitably be many different initiatives in the PPE space and they will all need to be evaluated carefully to ensure that safety is never compromised, at the same time as guaranteeing credentials. At the same time there is also a real risk of ‘greenwash’, and so the relevance of the initiative should be assessed as well. Always avoid any novelties and gimmicks, such as so called ‘eco giveaways.’

5. Building Organisational Capabilities.
Where in your organisation do you need to raise awareness of sustainable PPE? Can you educate the workforce on looking after products to extend their life? It is vital to build an infrastructure which will regard PPE as technical equipment as opposed to a quick fix consumable.

6. Fostering Cultural change.
This needs to start from the top for any sustainable PPE change. In achieving a safe longer product lifecycle or introducing innovation, the up-front cost may be higher and needs to be understood in terms of overall vision with long term benefits and cost savings. Only when this picture is clear throughout your business can you drive positive adoption. Your PPE supplier should be able to advise and support you on the behavioural change necessary.

7. Scouting and experimenting.
Be open to new technologies which may achieve your aims. If you are unsure then organise ‘proof of concept’ programmes with your supplier, so that you can evaluate all demonstrable benefits and assess feedback at an early stage.

8. Embedding sustainability into all process and decision making.
Revise your key processes and ensure you evaluate your PPE supplier by their overall ability to drive your PPE sustainability strategy as well as their accreditations such as Ecovadis.

Sustainable Workwear

Ensure the trackability of sustainable fabrics. For example, Repreve fabric has its own traceable fingerprint. sustainable workwear document? This clever yarn imprint means that products can be verified and you can be sure that the recycling process has not been compromised. This breathable jacket from Engel is one of the best high-vis jackets on the market today.

More about the Engel Jacket

These extremely durable and comfortable Engel Work Trousers use 21 plastic bottles each, re-generated into polyester.

Watch the video here



More about the Engel Trousers

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