Environment and Ethical Update 2021

The Covid crisis threw up some real challenges on the environment.

Suddenly we were surrounded by disposable product when we had been totally focussed on sustainability within our 5 core environmental goals. After much soul-searching, we shelved our plans to ship products with no outer packaging, judging – perhaps wrongly – that our customers would want the reassurance of sterility in 2020. We plan to review this in 2021 and, pandemic-permitting, re-instate our trial to ship product with no outer packaging to our customers.

Meanwhile we are pushing ahead with other ways of reducing our environmental footprint. We were once again Carbon Neutral operationally in 2020. We also moved all of our shipping bags to 100% recycled plastic, meaning that they are both recyclable and in turn can be recycled. We also increased the use of recycled polyester in our garments and will accelerate this in 2021. Finally, we moved further towards our target of 100% Better Cotton.

The challenges from an Ethical Trading viewpoint were significant.

The global retail industry and a number of UK retailers in particular failed to live up to the promises they had made – cancelling orders and leaving their suppliers and workers in a very vulnerable state. With no government support or customer payments they had no cash-flow to pay for essentials. At Schoolblazer we decided to take a stand. We made advance payments to our factories where we need and brought forward orders where we could to keep the work flowing. We also worked closely with all of our factories to ensure that their own workers got the best PPE supplies and were able to operate safely. All of this meant that we had more stock than we needed, but we are confident that this was the correct response.

The proof of how this worked must be in the Christmas message we received from the owner of one of our key suppliers in Sri Lanka:

In quiet solitude I said a special word of thanks to you for your wonderful gesture which has helped sustain our business and the livelihood of many families. Though you may think nothing of it /shrug your shoulders, indeed you have made many to smile today.