Service Centre Helsinki's new procurement of work clothes did not compromise on sustainability

News 2021-10-05 at 10:31
© Cervice Center Helsinki / Jussi Hellsten

The aim of the recently launched work clothes procurement of the Service Centre Helsinki was to acquire durable, functional and safe work clothes for employees working in various positions. To support this goal, multiple market dialogues and mapping for sustainability requirements were conducted and because of these, the environmental friendliness and responsible operations were successfully made as a significant part of the procurement.

The tenderers had to take into account many different responsibility requirements, ranging from the social responsibility of clothing and the production chain, the environmental impact and the reduction of harmful chemicals, to the recycling and reuse. In addition, the sustainability requirements for laundry services paid attention to the hygiene standards, microplastics, chemicals and repair services.

During the preparation of the procurement, the lifecycle impact of the procurement of work clothes was estimated in collaboration with Service Centre Helsinki, Helsinki City Construction Services and the Environmental Services of City of Helsinki. The review of the lifecycle impact was conducted according to the action 21 of the City’s Roadmap for Circular and Sharing Economy to provide decision-making information on which procurement method is the most sensible in terms of life cycle effects.

In addition to comparing the impact of the usage stage, the review also explains the significance of the work clothes’ initial and final parts of the cycle in terms of climate impact and highlights best practices for reducing the lifecycle environmental impact.

With new learnings towards more sustainable procurement in the future

As such, both the tendering and the review yielded plenty of information and templates that can be used when steering the planning of work clothing procurements in the future. By the next tendering round, the industry is sure to have taken major steps in climate action and sustainability, and the tendering and its requirements will be developed with regard to these. Compared to this procurement, aim is that, for example, the possibilities of requiring the use of recycled fibres and environmentally-friendly fibres of equal quality will be re-examined, as well as the developing criteria that take better the entire delivery chain.

The procurement contracts of the work clothes are now signed and the parties are very satisfied with them. “Even though we faced challenges, it is rewarding that we managed to boldly take responsibility into the procurement and improve our focus especially on social responsibility. It was also rewarding to hear the views of market and textile experts about the sustainability work, and to get to work together at the city level, too”, says Procurement Expert Saara Ojanen from the Service Centre Helsinki.

Prolonging the service life of work clothing is a key way of influencing the emissions of the procurement, which is why Service Centre Helsinki aims to efficiently communicate to its employees about sustainability, maintenance opportunities and the appropriate recycling of old work clothes. The aim is also to increase cooperation and exchange of information within the City to develop the sustainability of the work clothes procurements and, among other things, to promote eco-labeled products.

The results of the review focusing on the lifecycle impact of the work clothing procurement are available to all, as is the calculation tool developed during the review. They can be found at the end of this news, along with a case description of the work clothes procurement. Good practices of this procurement also serve other public buyers in the Responsible Textile Procurement (in Finnish) guide, provided by Fair Trade Finland, which aims to promote social justice in the public procurement. The same guide also contains lessons learned from the tendering of the City of Helsinki’s branded textiles.

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