Published 01.17.24

Win Win Win for Workwear Sustainability

Sustainability initiatives are becoming a top priority for many businesses — and for good reason. Discover how a managed workwear apparel program delivers wins.

When you think about a managed workwear apparel program, image, comfort and convenience are likely at the top of your list, and for good reason. Research proves that fit and function are a high priority for your employees. However, that isn’t the only thing to consider when finding the right workwear program for your organization. Sustainability is another important factor. 

Consumers and employees are putting a bigger priority on buying from and working with companies that have genuine, focused sustainability efforts. Consider:

It’s not only consumers who are demanding more sustainable products. Experts anticipate more government regulations will emerge to help curb greenhouse emissions.

“The next five years will see accelerated action from companies as they scramble to meet increasing requirements around reporting and visibility to reduce their carbon footprint. At the same time, they face unprecedented challenges to existing business models as extreme weather events impact both their bottom line and their consumer base who will increasingly demand greater transparency and traction in sustainable offerings,” states a report from Nielsen IQ.

CEOs agree.

“We expect a heightened focus on sustainability — for the planet, for our people and for our company — will be important as environmental, social and governance issues gain greater awareness and attention from different groups. We believe Cintas, like other corporations, should consider and undertake initiatives that support a better tomorrow for us all,” says Todd Schneider, Cintas President and CEO.

One opportunity to improve a company’s carbon footprint is with its managed workwear program. Specifically, a sustainably managed program helps reduce greenhouse emissions, protect water resources and limit waste sent to landfills. 

Advancing Sustainability Efforts
Fashion production is responsible for 10% of global carbon emissions. (Carbon dioxide makes up 79% of all greenhouse gases.) The industry can also strain water resources and contribute a significant amount of waste to landfills. As much as 85% of textiles go to U.S. dumps each year. 

Even if you’re not in the fashion industry, your workwear program has the opportunity to make a difference. One study found that sustainable workwear programs help reduce greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 76%.

Professional laundering services offer significant energy efficiencies compared to traditional at-home laundry. Cintas has developed technologies and processes that help improve these efficiencies even more. Those include:

  • Improved sling loading processes. Industrial slings transport heavy loads of laundry, including workwear apparel, to the wash. By combining technology and processes, Cintas has pioneered improved loading efficiencies. The new approach results in a 10% reduction in annual water withdrawal (up to 350 million gallons of water per year) and millions of dollars in savings in utility and chemistry costs.
  • Heat reclamation. Heating water to the appropriate temperature for laundering can require significant energy usage. Heat reclaimer systems use pipes that run concentrically (one with hot wastewater leaving the plant and one with cold municipal water entering the plant). Together, these pipes help balance the water temperature: the hot wastewater transfers heat to the cold municipal water and vice versa. This helps reduce energy usage at key stages of the laundering process. 
  • Optimized fleet routing. Data collected from delivery trucks provides insight on creating more efficient routes, which ultimately reduces greenhouse gas emissions with fewer trucks on the road and less idling time.
  • Water stewardship. Improved technology and processes allow significant savings in water usage. Companies dedicated to sustainability practices are investing in processes and practices that help protect and preserve natural resources. Cintas has reduced its water withdrawal by 9.1% and total water consumed by 2.8%. In water-stressed regions, such as California, 91.8% of the water withdrawn is discharged (once clean) back into communities. 
  • Chemical safety. Sustainable laundering programs opt for safe, effective chemicals to appropriately clean apparel and personal protective equipment (PPE). Readily available chemicals — such as Green Seal®-certified products, Design for the Environment (DfE) chemicals and environmentally friendly detergents — professionally and adequately launder apparel and textiles while being gentler on the environment.
  • Reduced waste. Professional laundering and repair extend the life of garments. Research suggests that a circular system (a managed workwear program that inspects, repairs, cleans and returns apparel), repairs almost all garments. By contrast, wearers only make about half of the needed repairs to garments. Instead, they throw apparel out and replaced it with new items.
  • Sustainable materials. Today, many products are made from sustainable or recycled materials, including recycled polyester and fabric made from water bottles. 

Learn more about how sustainable workwear programs can get your organization readyTM for the future.