Creating tomorrow's sustainable protection
Creating protective clothing while keeping sustainability in focus is a demanding process. Kristina Alderin, Tranemo’s Sustainability Manager, is at the forefront of our drive to offer solutions that harmonise environmental demands with our duty to protect lives and prevent injury.
What are the biggest challenges in creating sustainable Flame Retardant clothing?
Ensuring customers end up with the most environmentally-friendly product and the correct level of protection. We do this by placing customer needs at the start of everything we do. Beginning with a risk evaluation, we analyse the environment the clothing will be used in, the demands it will be exposed to and other important variables. The risk evaluation is the foundation – and from it, informed decisions can be made from both a protective and sustainability perspective.
How does this affect sustainability?
It’s quite simple. Although the garment will still protect, it could be the case that the customer chooses a garment that is unsuitable for their needs on account of the fibres used. The risk assessment allows us to identify and give guidance at an early stage.
Do you have any examples of this?
We have been and are currently involved in several projects where fibres are being replaced with, for example recycled cotton, or the type of fibre is being adjusted to improve the garment’s sustainability characteristics. A consequence of this is the creation of fabric that has a reduced impact on the environment by using less chemicals, dyes, water, electricity and other resources that may not actually be required – and of course, any new material is subjected to thorough testing (including industrial cleaning) and wearer tests to ensure protection and performance are unaffected.
How important are Tranemo’s relationships with partners and suppliers?
This is a defining area for us and we invest a lot of time and effort in ensuring these relationships are both productive and transparent. We work very closely with our suppliers in developing new textiles as well as cooperating to devise processes that reduce energy and water consumption, amongst others. Our expertise and the expertise of our partners and suppliers can be harmonised and leveraged in many ways, to the benefit of both parties and ultimately, to the benefit of our customers. Both parties understand that together, we’re in a great position to drive development forwards. With these aims in mind, it’s also an advantage that the majority of our production suppliers are based in Europe.
In what other ways do these partnerships express themselves?
In cooperation with partners and suppliers, we conduct research and development into fibres and their application. Our desire to innovate and find new solutions drives this work, which makes it vital that we communicate our requirements clearly – which we are able to do thanks to the expertise and experience of our team. At industry events such as Techtextil we can meet and listen to our partners and suppliers, study new textiles and fibres and discuss the challenges we need to tackle to deliver more sustainable solutions. A practical example of this could be if a supplier is creating a textile with a mix of fibres and we’ve identified the potential possibility to make one of two fibres non-coloured – together, we can achieve this.
Looking at material construction from a fresh perspective seems to be a defining sustainability issue. Why is this?
It’s true that this is an area where there are big sustainability wins to be made. At the same time, it’s an area that constantly involves ‘walking a tightrope’. When it comes to textiles, the questions we ask ourselves are, ‘what can be replaced’, ‘what can we replace it with’ and ‘how will it affect the garment as a whole’. Obviously, our garments must offer the right level of protection and a long lifetime. This is our first priority. When it comes to protecting our customers, there is no room for compromises. However, we see it as our duty to research and innovate – progress is a continuous process and together with our suppliers, we’re happy to lead the way when it comes to challenging our branch and questioning conventional thinking.
In terms of constructing garments, how do you apply sustainable thinking?
We construct garments that are easy to repair. By doing so, the customer gets a garment with a longer life, reduces the TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) and minimises their environmental footprint. At Tranemo, we have one of the industry’s most experienced and skilled teams. They are always on hand to help customers get the most from every stitch and fibre of our garments. This alone can make a huge difference in terms of sustainability. Right now, we’re involved in projects with our partners with the aim of increasing our expertise within used Flame Retardant garment recycling – including the recycling of contaminated used Flame Retardant garments, an area that can be complicated.
To sum up, what tips would you give customers when it comes to making more sustainable choices?
- Trust our expertise - Through our risk evaluation process, we can help any customer identify the right garments – and this can have a defining effect on sustainability.
- Once you’ve found the right garment - learn how to take care of it properly. We construct garments to have the longest possible life through smart design, material choice and ensuring it’s optimised for industrial washing – however, learning about the garment and making sure it’s looked after correctly is vital.
- If a garment is damaged - talk to us about repairing it. We can supply the knowledge and replacement parts that let you do this without compromising protective performance.
- You can help by asking yourself some fundamental questions. Could you accept a different colour to reduce dye consumption? Could you introduce a system where used garments are collected for recycling? Are you 100% familiar with how to take care of the garments you already have?
Together with customers and suppliers, Tranemo wants to change and reduce our collective environmental impact - both for today and for the future.