What is Sustainable Workwear?


Is Sustainable Workwear Worth It?


Sustainable clothing is a big topic, we know. However, reading this guide will provide you with a comprehensive overview of why businesses like yours are choosing sustainable workwear, as well as factors to consider and how much sustainable workwear costs.

This is a deep dive into the topic of environmentally friendly workwear, and our aim is to help you as a consumer; at the end of this article yoube better able to make the decision whether to implement sustainable workwear, footwear and PPE into your company, and if so, which direction to go in!


This article covers:

  • Why businesses are choosing sustainability
  • How can workwear and PPE be sustainable?
  • Is sustainable clothing really more durable?
  • Top 4 things to consider with Sustainable Products
  • Where to start? Are standards the same?
  • How much does Sustainable Workwear Cost?
  • What is EcoZone?
  • Conclusion & Next Steps


Why businesses are choosing sustainability:

At the current time the need to be sustainable and environmentally aware has never been more important. Each company’s impact, both socially and environmentally, is being noticed and monitored; an increasingly important aspect of preparing a tender or working with your customers in a long-term relationship is showing evidence of your sustainability and CSR programmes. A great way to show your company’s commitment to sustainability is through your use of sustainable workwear and PPE.

Good quality sustainable workwear, footwear and PPE, represents an ethical manufacturing process that is as kind to the environment as possible and without labour exploitation.

Consumer pressure, government regulations and a general increasing awareness are the main driving forces behind manufacturers moving to be more sustainable. An increased awareness of the effects of plastic pollution on the wildlife has also prompted change; not only in packaging, but also in the products themselves.


With these factors in mind, many organisations are vetting their suppliers and implementing eco-friendly initiatives like sustainable workwear and PPE into their policies to reflect this rising demand.



How can workwear and PPE be sustainable?

A great way to start proving that your business is committed to its sustainability program is by using eco-friendly workwear and PPE.

The real-life benefits to the environment of eco-friendly workwear may include that less water is wasted, that carbon emissions are lower, and that less land is used for raw material production. The ways in which products are classed as sustainable may be different; here are various ways workwear may be portrayed as environmentally friendly and what they mean:

  • Recycled: This means that all or some of the product is made from re-used materials, whether this be a polyester polo shirt which includes recycled plastic, or an element of clothing which has been recycled and reused.
  • Organic: This generally means that the raw material is grown and produced using methods that have a low impact on the environment, including less water usage or better land management.
  • Carbon neutral: This means the manufacturer has a process whereby they offset the carbon dioxide produced during the manufacture and shipping of the item. This may be done by supporting projects that remove carbon dioxide from the air, ensuring a neutral impact.
  • Ethical manufacture: This may refer to items that are produced in an environment that are consciously involved in social issues, such as no child labour, paying above the minimum or living wage, having proper health and safety standards and so on.
  • Recyclable: This infers that at the end of its life a product can be recycled. However, one thing to watch with this is it may only be able to be recycled in certain areas and through certain processes.
  • Biodegradable: This means that the item is capable of being decomposed naturally by the action of living organisms (e.g., bacteria or fungi) and can be reabsorbed into the environment without causing harm. It mainly applies to consumable items such as wipes, as you don’t want clothing or footwear degrading while in use!


Here are some examples of products in our ecozone rage which are environmentally friendly in different ways, from being biodegradable, to being recycled from fishing nets!


Is sustainable clothing really more durable?

You may be asking, ‘Does buying better quality workwear give the same benefits as buying sustainable workwear?’

There are a lot of articles and opinions on the internet which say that sustainable clothing is of a higher quality and will therefore last longer than standard items; you have likely come across this line of reasoning before.

Before the industrial age in the 1700’s, natural materials were used in manufacturing items such as clothing. These items were also designed to last as long as possible, showing durability and sustainability can be achieved together. Polyester fabric was only invented in the late 1930’s, and with the rise of mass-manufacturing clothing has been seen as a replaceable commodity.

However, durability depends on what is being compared. Workwear, even at a relatively low price, is usually always made to a higher quality standard to increase its durability. Compared to cheap fast-fashion items, which are designed to be low quality and have a finite lifetime, workwear wins the durability test hands down.

Therefore, while sustainable clothing in general may well be higher quality than normal, in workwear the dividing line is less clear.


Top 4 Things To Consider With Sustainable Products:

Firstly, and this is a big one, do the manufacturers of the sustainable garments hold the correct certification standards?

This is always worth asking any supplier who claims their products are sustainable. While we could discuss in details all the different standards, I will just list the main ones here: Organic Content Standard (OCS), the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), the Recycled Claim Standard (RCS) and the Global Recycled Standard (GRS), as well as Oeko-Tex® approval to ensure that every component of their garments has been tested for harmful substances and has been declared harmless to human health. These organisations verify the sustainability of the textiles used.

Durability and Quality:

PPE and workwear garments need to be durable and long life due to the nature of the job. Sustainable products, in particular workwear garments, still need to live up to the same durability. This means the way a particular item has been classified as sustainable is important as not all environmentally friendly garments are equal! For example, a polo shirt advertised as sustainable due to its use of recycled plastic bottles in the construction is likely to be more durable than a polo shirt made from 100% organic cotton – which may lose its shape or shrink over time. Some manufacturers are also saying their standard garments give greater environmental benefits due to a longer lifetime, and that if they were to use recycled materials in a bid to be seen as eco-friendly, this would reduce the durability and actually need replacing sooner. This argument goes both ways, and it is down to you what side you take!

Range of choice and colours needed:

At the moment, due to the relatively low quantity of garments that are demanded, manufacturers are mainly producing their garment ranges in the more traditional blacks, greys etc. Therefore, if you are looking for a bright pink and yellow two tone hi-vis, a sustainable option may not exist! Similarly, if the colour or size required is available in a sustainable polo shirt, it may not be available in other ranges by the same supplier. Therefore, it is always worth checking with your supplier if they can source the garment required – but again, as sustainable options are purchased more often it will become more economically viable to produce diverse options over time.

Is it worth it?

This is a good point to consider, as if an item says it’s recyclable but can only be recycled in a specialist factory on the other side of the world, the carbon emissions produced in transport are likely to reduce any benefits gained.

Furthermore, with a company uniform that is branded, a greater emphasis is often placed on secure destruction of the item at the end of its life than its ability to be recycled. Also, workwear in particular may be in a very poor state at the end of its life, so in some cases it may be questionable if recycling is an option (such as contamination by oil etc).

In either case the route you take depends on your company perspective.


Where to start? Are standards the same?

Making the move to provide sustainable workwear or a sustainable company uniform is not as daunting as it sounds. Whether your needs include clothing, PPE, footwear or more in the longer term, many of our customers are making the move in smaller steps – such as beginning with recycled gloves (like the enviroflex gloves) or starting a programme to replace footwear with carbon neutral alternatives in stages. It all makes a difference!

This step does not have to compromise either safety, quality or comfort, as manufacturing and recycling technologies have been improving in great leaps over the past few years, and this enables products to be made to the same high standards. In many cases this is even taken further, since a lot of the products in our EcoZone range also feature in our ComfortZone range, which qualify for our comfort guarantee – not only do your actions help the environment, your employees will thank you for it!


How much does sustainable workwear cost?

This question is one we are often asked when discussing workwear. While the answer is ‘it depends’, let me explain why.

Business attitude:

Prices are more expensive at the moment, and this affects business attitude as the willingness for a company to invest in a particular style generally depends a lot more on price and quality of the garment rather than its sustainable merits. While a fashion brand may be able to sell sustainable items even at the higher cost, in business even a few pence difference per garment totals a significant increase in cost overall – ultimately affecting the profits.

This hesitation of many businesses to buy sustainable workwear for its sustainable quality alone has a knock-on effect throughout the supply chain. Manufacturers then are seeing lower demand for products, and so to make it economically viable for them to produce in lower quantities their price must be higher and is likely to be centred around a smaller range of colours and sizes.

This means that all it will take for prices of sustainable items to reduce is more companies purchasing it, and we predict that prices will decrease consistently over the next few years.

This isn’t usually an issue for companies who are making the decision in a serious attempt to meet environmental targets or better their CSR image.

If your company however is just treating sustainable workwear as ‘another option to look into’, and price is a more important factor than sustainability, then you may need to accept that it isn’t the option for you – yet.


Manufacturing costs:

Sustainable items are highly likely to always cost more than mainstream alternatives as while processes are advancing technologically, recycling costs, transport costs and higher costs of labour usually lead to higher prices overall. As economies of scale increase, prices may come closer to an equivalent level.


Sticker price:

Classing something as sustainable at the current time almost always guarantees that prices will be higher, just because many people are prepared to pay more for assurance that they are not negatively harming the environment.

However, the sticker price effect is generally higher in the fashion industry than with workwear.


What is EcoZone?

EcoZone is MF Safety & Workwear’s hand-picked core range of environmentally friendly workwear, safety footwear and PPE products.

Not only can your organisation transition to sustainable workwear items, but you can also use sustainable gloves, safety specs, biodegradable wipes, hi-vis, respirators & safety footwear!

Your actions in going sustainable don’t have to be boring, there are many options available in multiple colours, and even two-tone!

See our full range in the brochure below!



How is MF Safety Sustainable?

As well as helping you meet your sustainability targets through our EcoZone range, we are committed along the sustainability pathway too.

By 2028 the City of Nottingham aims to be the 1st carbon neutral city, and being based in Stapleford, Nottingham we are excited to be part of this journey! Our efforts to reduce our environmental impact are ongoing, and currently focus on our energy usage and recycling waste management. See our CSR policy in the ‘About’ tab above!



Overall, while there is a lot to consider when deciding if sustainable workwear is right for your business, and hopefully the points stated above have given you an idea of what to look for and ask suppliers, sustainable workwear is definitely the way forward if you are looking to make a better social and environmental statement – it reduces the impact of the garments right from the production and processing of the raw material, the manufacture and labour used to the garments end of life.


Further reading:


Contact us to find out how we can help your business in your environmental impact, we can offer many more solutions than just the core range in the brochure above!

[email protected]

0115 925 2261



Please note that this information may not apply in every circumstance or with every manufacturer or supplier, but it is intended to help you think beyond what the label says when deciding whether to use environmentally friendly workwear, footwear and PPE items in your company.

We have used ‘sustainable’ alternately with ‘environmentally friendly’ throughout this article, but generally meaning the latter. For common classifications, please see the second section above.