Coats

Living Sustainably

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Materials

The products and services that Coats provides have to be sustainable in themselves but they can also contribute actively to making customers’ products more sustainable. Coats is working actively with customers on the recycled and circular projects of the future.

Living

Leader's Voice

“Using less materials and reducing the impacts of the materials that we do use is a very high priority for us. Our industry is justifiably under the spotlight in this area, and together with others we are committed to promoting circularity in our products and packaging. We are proud to have embarked fully on our ‘Eco Journey’ in 2021 during which we successfully launched a series of Sustainable product offerings, that allow our customers to design garments with a clear end-of-life strategy built into them.

We are optimistic for the future of the apparel industry and through our accelerated ambition are certain that Coats can play a key role. Our focus is to continue to provide the industry with new solutions that will drive the shift towards circularity by developing more of our products and packaging from recycled or bio-based materials, exploring innovative solutions and working with our supply chain partners.”

Adrian Elliott
President, Apparel and Footwear

Operation Waste Management

We have been working hard to develop our operational waste management and increase transparency on all waste types across our units. In 2019, we adopted the European Union’s Waste Framework Directive as the basis for waste management. The European Waste Catalogue now underpins the Coats Waste Catalogue, containing 35 different waste categories that cover all material items present in a Coats unit. Due to the introduction of the Coats Waste Catalogue, in 2021, we restated our waste statistics back to 2018 and adjusted our target accordingly.

During 2021 the total waste we produced was 23 thousand tonnes, compared to 18 thousand tonnes in 2020. As production recovered substantially in 2021, with fewer pandemic impacts, an increase in absolute waste quantities was to be expected. A lot of our waste goes into other industrial activities, for example sludge being used in cement production, and the pandemic also impacted to some extend on demand in these industries, so during 2021 there has been some additional waste disposal as accumulated quantities were cleared during the year. As a result our waste as a percentage of total materials used remained broadly constant from 2020 to 2021 at 16% and this obscures an underlying reduction that will be apparent in 2022. The implementation of the Coats Waste Catalogue has advanced our measurement of waste, allowing us to identify opportunities for reduction, for example in sludge and packaging materials. With a series of programmes now in place as a result, over the next year we anticipate a significant reduction to our operational waste throughout 2022 and remain confident of our ability to reach our target.

A comprehensive breakdown of our waste shows that 16% of the waste material on our sites is directly related to our products, with other high volume categories including paper, cardboard and wood packaging (25%), sludge (26%) and plastic packaging (11%). Of the waste generated 67% is recycled or reused, and 14% is disposed of in landfill (down from 20% in 2020 and 16% in 2019). Overall 46% of our units have achieved sending zero waste to landfill.

Being Mindful of Resource Consumption

Consumption of materials is a critical issue in the textile industry. It is therefore very important that we are mindful of what we consume, using only what is needed, whilst seeking less impactful alternatives. During 2021 we used 80 thousand tonnes of direct raw materials the majority of which comprised the fibres used to make our thread products. 94% of our products are made from oil-derived plastic materials, principally polyester, and 6% are made using cotton fibres.

Since 2018 we have been continuously working to transition our premium polyester products towards the use of recycled materials. Although there has been significant progress in general in the use of bioplastics, we remain cautious around the use of such materials due to concerns regarding the environmental and social impacts associated with increased land use for textile fibre production. With the decision to focus our Asia Innovation Hub in Shenzhen, China, to work on bio-materials we will continue to look at bioplastics alongside other biological materials, but we will continue to evaluate carefully the full impact of their use . It is our view that the continuing evolution of textile-to textile recycling presents a strong opportunity for future fibre production. For more information on our approach to sustainable fibre consumption see page 43 of the Sustainability Report.

We are very conscious of the social and environmental risks involved with the small proportion of cotton fibre we use and are supportive of the global collaborations such as the Better Cotton Initiative that work to manage these risks. We have long had a ban on sourcing cotton grown in high risk areas.

The use of animal-based products in our range are limited to wool-based products accounting for less than 0.01% of our sales. Regardless of this minute percentage, we ensure that these products are responsibly sourced. Our Animal Welfare Policy has been put in place to highlight this.

Our product specifications across all of our ranges are established to ensure that the products are fit for purpose and not over engineered for the end use. This means that we do not produce or sell more material than that which is required by our customers. We also focus on ensuring that indirect material usage is minimised. This is especially important in the area of packaging as both the materials we buy and the products we sell require packaging to protect them during transport and storage. We address this upstream with our material suppliers and downstream with our customers to work collaboratively to find ways to minimise packaging and, where it is still necessary, ensure that it can be reused or recycled.

Circularity - Products

The Linear Model

Linear models, following a ‘take-make-waste’ structure, are typically used within the textile industry whereby virgin resources are taken to make products, which are then sold to consumers to use, before they are mainly disposed of at the end of their life cycle into landfill or are incinerated. Approximately 100 million tonnes of virgin textile materials enter this model on an annual basis.

As demand for resources continues to grow, we are putting increasing pressure on a limited supply of virgin materials. According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation less than 1% of textile waste is recycled into new textile product. This linear model is wasteful and unsustainable.

A Model for the Future

Circular models – centred around the principles of designing waste and pollution out of the system, extending the life cycle of materials by keeping them in use for longer, and recovering materials instead of allowing them to be disposed of as waste, so that they can be recycled and reprocessed back into new materials – have emerged as an alternative approach to how materials are produced. As companies across the supply chain begin to incorporate elements of these three core principles we are starting to see a shift take place. Several pilot projects have been developed focused on finding solutions to reprocess waste textiles into new textile products. The future vision for the industry is to avoid the unsustainable creation of virgin fibres while also resolving the end-of-life waste problem that currently exists. This is a vision that Coats is committed to.

Barriers to Unlock

To close the loop from waste textile to new fibre is not a trivial set of challenges, and much still needs to be done before industrial processes can be established, but a lot of brilliant work in the industry means that there is now at least a roadmap of newly developed processes that can overcome many of them. However, we must stress that there are still substantial technical and industrial hurdles to be dealt with. Most textile products have more than one textile material in them, and many also have non textile components such as buttons or zippers. Designing new garments to facilitate reprocessing can help to minimise this problem, but it will never be completely eliminated. Automated sorting processes that can detect the materials in a product are being developed and trialled. Removing non-textile components is currently a highly manual, expensive process. Once materials have been sorted and separated then different recycling processes can be applied. Most fibre recycling to date has been done by physical means, a process that progressively downgrades the fibres meaning that truly circular processing cannot continue for more than one or two cycles before the fibres are so degraded that they can no longer be processed. A number of companies have developed chemical reprocessing technology for both natural and synthetic material types and the first bulk industrial trials of these processes are currently underway.

The Challenge of Thread for Circular Processes

Thread makes up a very small proportion of a finished garment, typically around 1-2%. Currently, as noted previously, most thread is made from polyester whether the material being sewn is cotton, polyester, a blend of the two of them or some other fibre. This means that thread is often of a different material to the rest of the product. This small percentage footprint combined with the different material composition makes thread an additional challenge for circular recycling. Furthermore threads and the seam structures they are sewn into have been developed to be extremely durable. In most cases a seam will comfortably outlive the material used in the garment. This is an additional challenge when it comes to selective disassembly of seams, for example to remove non-textile elements, and is a major reason why this is a high cost, manual process at the moment.

Changing the Paradigm - Coats Circular Strategy

We have spent over 250 years expertly designing and producing thread that holds garments together, ensuring it withstands the full lifetime of the garment. It is our view that, as we look towards the future, part of the focus needs to be placed on the stages of design to ensure textiles are designed with an end-of-life strategy in mind. A garment of the future must be designed for ease of recycling and disassembly. Our approach is to consider three ways in which thread can provide a solution. First, garments need to be designed with material compatibility in mind, therefore threads needs to match the fabric material so that it can undergo the same recycling process. Second, we have explored how thread can be a low-cost solution to create a garment that can be easily disassembled at the end of its lifecycle. Third, where possible, our threads must be developed from recycled textile materials.

Coats Eco Journey

Coats is committed to taking steps to play our part in the complex circular supply chains of the future. We have already embarked on this journey through our product innovation, including work with key suppliers and partners across many fields, to deliver a sustainable product offering to our customers.

Coats’ Eco Journey is a roadmap set out to produce innovative sustainable products that support our drive towards a circular economy. Our suite of products have been designed with the future of the circular economy in mind. They provide sewing solutions that consider the end-of-life of the garment, ensure compatibility for recycling, biodegradability of the garment, and garment disassembly.

As part of our agenda to drive further innovation in this area, The Coats Innovation Hub – Asia, in Shenzhen, China, will have a new mission and be re-purposed to focus on the application of biomaterials. Over the long term, Coats aspires to move all products to environmentally friendly materials and chemicals. This action is in line with our most recent commitment to ensure that by 2030 all products will be made completely independently of new oil-extraction materials such as polyester and nylon.

Where it all Started - Coats EcoVerde

This range was first launched in 2018 and is now one of the most comprehensive ranges of 100% recycled polyester (rPET) threads, zips and trims on the market. Whilst we acknowledge rPET is not a fully closed-loop solution, the majority of our products are made from polyester, therefore we believe making our products from recycled materials that extend the life of the resource rather than using virgin materials, is the correct thing to do whilst we work to develop more sustainable solutions.

Our target is to transition all of our premium polyester products to recycled polyester raw material by 2024. We have continued to make good progress towards this goal in 2021 with 19% of our premium sales coming from our EcoVerde range of recycled products, up from 13% in 2020. The supply of high quality recycled fibres continues to be challenging, and is a significant factor determining the rate of conversion. Prior to 2021 all of our material came from Japanese waste collection and processing sources because of the high quality of material achieved. We have now successfully expanded our supply chain to include materials from China and will be looking to qualify further sources of supply in 2022 and beyond. We are also initiating work on chemically recycled polyester from textile waste as we consider this to be an essential component in the recycled and largely circular supply chain of the future.

EcoRegen

Coats EcoRegen is a range of 100% lyocell threads made from sustainably sourced wood pulp. It is an eco-friendly regenerated fibre which can be recycled and is fully biodegradable and compostable due to its cellulosic origin.

EcoCycle - Facilitates End of Life Garment Recycling

Coats EcoCycle is a ground breaking water dissolvable thread concept that helps facilitate end-of-life recycling when washed at 95°C.

Whilst the thread maintains its quality, strength and durability during the life span of the garment, when exposed to a thermal washing process at temperatures above 95°C it allows the seam to dissolve so that non-textile and textile components can be easily separated for recycling. This product has the potential to be truly transformative in driving a circular textile economy. We are currently seeking to bring together the key industry players (e.g. brands, collectors and recyclers) to put the steps in place that are required in order for this solution to be scaled up. We are already working with our partners to explore how this might look in future.

Collaboration and Staying Connected

Collaboration is imperative to help the industry transition away from our usual way of operating. Whilst innovative solutions are being piloted across the industry, individual contributors cannot effectively tackle the scale of the challenge working in silos. With support from governments, policy and other influential institutions, it is essential for players across the value chain, to work together in delivering better solutions more rapidly.

We recognise that collaboration will enable us to scale up the sewing solutions we are providing for a circular future and ensure the full circular loop is closed. To overcome this challenge, at the start of 2021, Coats became an official member of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation Network – the world’s leading network for the transition toward the circular economy. As a network member, Coats aspires to help lead the way in the transition for the textile industry. We have already engaged in conversation and collaborative projects with other like-minded network members that can help us to understand better the end-to-end supply chain for garment recycling and therefore ensure our solutions positively contribute to creating a more sustainable business model for our industry. For example Coats is collaborating on The Jeans Redesign Project, as an innovation expert on threads that enable recyclability, helping project participants to address the challenges that surround sewing thread within the design of circular garments. We believe that by bringing our current product developments and our innovation capabilities into this collaborative venture we will help to accelerate the much needed transformation of our industry.

In addition, for the first time Coats attended the Textile Sustainability Conference 2021, led by the Textile Exchange in collaboration with the Sustainable Apparel Coalition. As Silver Sponsors of the event, we used this opportunity to be part of the wider ecosystem of industry players leading by example, engaging in discussion around best practice, and seeking further collaborative opportunities to drive a more sustainable future.

To demonstrate our dedication to working in collaboration, over the next five years Coats will invest $10m in scaling up the development of green technologies and materials to accelerate the achievement of its goals.

Circularity - Packaging

Plastic waste is a major environmental problem. As part of our commitment to behave responsibly, we are working on a project to reduce plastic packaging from our finished goods as the secondary focus of our Circular Strategy.

Up to 25% of our finished goods are comprised of packaging materials, including the supports to our cones of thread and the plastic sleeves that protect them. In line with the principles of a circular economy, our aim is to move towards more sustainable packaging materials for all of our threads, by helping to facilitate ease of material recycling, keeping materials in use for longer through reuse, and eliminating packaging all together where viable. In June this year, we implemented Project 25, across most of our regions. The project has 3 key focus areas:

Single Coloured, Recycled Supports for all Thread Cones and Vicones

We typically use supports for cones and vicones in a variety of different colours that have previously helped to differentiate between the different thicknesses of thread. Our decision to move away from this and supply one colour recycled supports for all threads with the aim to help facilitate plastic recycling.

Removal of Sleeves for Dark Shades and Compostable or Paper Sleeves for Pale/White Shades

In many locations cone bags are necessary in order to protect the threads from dust contamination. In 2019 we initiated an exploratory project in Sri Lanka on the removal of plastic bags from our cones. Following a successful trial, we have extended the removal of all plastic sleeves on black and dark shades to all of our products. This action was communicated with a formal statement of intent. We are also exploring viable options to transition to compostable or paper sleeves for pale and white shaded thread that require more protection from dust contamination.

Sustainable Cardboard

As detailed previously, we are working with our global suppliers to reduce packaging waste in addition to seeking opportunities for the re-use of supplier packaging within our own distribution.

Supporting other industries to go green - An example from the Automotive sector


Take back and reuse programme

Within the Cleaner and Lighter initiative waste reduction has been identified as a priority area of focus in order to drive more concerted action towards achieving our 25% reduction target by the end of 2022.

One approach has been to address a reduction of supplier packaging waste, principally targeting paper and cardboard, plastic and wood, by developing an overall approach for each of our regional clusters. In July 2021, our procurement team began work with our major global suppliers to reduce packaging waste in addition to looking at opportunities for the re-use of supplier packaging within our own distribution.

One of our principal Asian units was established as a pilot for the trial of this re-use scheme. Although the project is still in its early stages, the collaborative relationships with suppliers have been extremely positive and successful. The project has already achieved a cardboard waste reduction of 140 Tonnes by the end of 2021.

Progress is being tracked on a monthly basis. The goal for 2022 is to continue the development of this project and to roll out similar schemes with our suppliers across all of our clusters.

Read more case studies

Living Sustainably: Protecting our planet

Indicator
Unit 2020 2019 restated1 2019 2018 restated1 2018
% premium polyester sales from recycled material
% 13% - 2% - -
Total waste generated2
Tonnes 17,610 25,401 12,450 24,092 12,232
Hazardous waste generated3
Tonnes 4.031 8,171 - 7,150 -
% total material waste
% 14% 16% 9% 15% 9%
Reused or recycled waste
% of waste 66% 69% 71% 73% 73%
% units sending zero waste to landfill
% 47% 65% 67% - -
Total materials purchased by Coats
Tonnes 115,302 144,802 142,398 139,399 136,705
Process chemicals used
Tonnes 13,820 16,034 - 18,213 -
Packaging materials used
Tonnes 22,486 24,077 - 27,062 -
Materials used in Coats products
Tonnes 78,996 104,691 102,287 94,125 91,431
Textile fibres used in Coats products
Tonnes 74,942 99,880 - 89,329 -
Dyes and chemicals used in Coats products
Tonnes 4,054 4,811 - 4,796 -

1Where possible 2018 and 2019 are restated to include HP Pharr which was purchased in January 2020. This is to provide a like for like comparison.

2With the completion of the Coats Waste Catalogue additional waste elements have been added to the waste total, leading to a restatement of 2018 and 2019 numbers (in addition to the inclusion of HP Pharr).

For more information on our historical performance download Coats Performance Summary

Living Sustainably: Protecting our planet

Indicator
Unit 2017 2016 2015 2014
% premium polyester sales from recycled material
% - - - -
Total waste generated2
Tonnes - - - -
Hazardous waste generated3
Tonnes - - - -
% total material waste
% - - - -
Reused or recycled waste
% of waste - - - -
% units sending zero waste to landfill
% - - - -
Total materials purchased by Coats
Tonnes 138,589 146,394 136,249 132,694
Process chemicals used
Tonnes - - - -
Packaging materials used
Tonnes - - - -
Materials used in Coats products
Tonnes 93,268 95,261 90,444 87,002
Textile fibres used in Coats products
Tonnes - - - -
Dyes and chemicals used in Coats products
Tonnes - - - -

1Where possible 2018 and 2019 are restated to include HP Pharr which was purchased in January 2020. This is to provide a like for like comparison.

2With the completion of the Coats Waste Catalogue additional waste elements have been added to the waste total, leading to a restatement of 2018 and 2019 numbers (in addition to the inclusion of HP Pharr).

For more information on our historical performance download Coats Performance Summary