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Operational excellence with sustainability: Lessons from Lindström

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Lindström, which provides rental workwear solutions for the pharmaceutical sector has adopted various environmentally-friendly ways to achieve significant cost benefits, reveals its recently released Sustainability Report 2016. Excerpts from the report

Effective use of textiles throughout their lifecycle

Renting textiles is a waste-free solution for the customers, since the responsibility for purchasing, maintenance, storing and disposal is handled at Lindström.

The company purchases over two million kilogrammes of textiles per year. Therefore, with an aim to prolong the lifespan of a textile and to reduce the amount of textile waste, the company orders only on demand and designs textiles that is easy to repair. It focuses on the profitable reuse of textile waste – easier said than done. Reportedly, the company withdraws about a million kilogrammes of textiles per year, when rental textiles, such as workwear, hotel linens, and restaurant table cloths reach the end of their cycle. The aim is to increase the utilisation of textiles to 90 per cent by 2020.

One solution that the company deploys is taking part in the Relooping Fashion project organised by VTT (Technical Research Centre of Finland). The aim is to find a solution to handling textile waste. With a mechanism for dissolving cellulose fiber developed by VTT, used cotton clothing is dissolved in this project and the residue fiber is then processed to new fiber for the textile industry.

lindstrom001Effective laundry, clean laundry

The company also adopts various measures while washing and repairing textiles to become a more sustainable organisation.

Short distances: The laundry facilities are located close to industrial areas to reduce textile transportation. The distribution routes are optimised all the time and the distribution trucks’ used capacity high is kept high.

Sorting: The clothes are sorted by dirtiness and colour to ensure the right washing programme. In the industrial washing process, clothes are disinfected.

Energy savings: Most of the energy used in the laundry is used to heat up the wash water and to finish off. Collecting heat from the wash water and the tumble drier air improves energy effectiveness. Also the heat from the wash water can be used to heat the next batch of water.

Water savings: Water is recycled in different washing cycles. The used rinse water can be re-used as the wash water for the next batch. Clean water is used for rinsing, and the company monitors the end result and the quality of the wash water. The cleanest water comes from laundering hotel textiles and the dirtiest comes from mats and industrial towels.

Fuel savings: The same truck transports the fresh textiles back to the client and at the same time picks up new dirty laundry. Clean and dirty textiles are kept separate.

Responsible products and purchasing

Lindström demonstrates that responsible products and purchasing is a part of sustainability. The company buys products needed in abundance mainly from Asia and Africa. Local manufacturers from Europe and Asia serve small-scale needs. Long-term relationships with responsible partners is a strategy to enable sustainability and responsibility.

Mutual understanding minimises risks: Understanding suppliers’ working conditions, and compliance with environmental and ethical principles with regular audits and visits. Lindstrom classifies its suppliers by the risks involved in suppliers and supplier countries and also by the importance of goods. They made a country risk analysis last year to evaluate, for instance, the state of official inspection, human rights issues, use of child labour, and corruption by the supplier country. In addition, they have made an individual risk analysis for all their most important suppliers. The monitoring and reporting of the supplier chain constantly helps the company stay up to date with what’s happening globally and whether agreed issues are followed up on.

Assessing country risks: Lindstrom assesses the following risks involved in their operations:

  • salary and energy expenses
  • political change
  • culture
  • crime and piracy
  • government officials’ behaviour and corruption
  • legislature
  • the climate and infrastructure
  • health and safety

It assesses the probability of risks in their supplier countries and the effects of those to their business. A strategy to safeguard themselves from those risks is also put into place. If the risk level is found to be too high, the company doesn’t purchase supplies from the country in question.

lindstrom002Safety at work

The company is responsible for employees’ health and safety. The most effective way to increase safety is to prevent accidents and monitor risks. The most common accident situations for Lindströmers are while commuting to and from work and while moving a trolley or a mat grid at a laundry. The most notable
occupational hazards are linked to ergonomics, noise,
vibration, and exposure to chemicals. An important means to prevent such accidents and occupational hazards is to monitor safety risks. The company encourages its staff to always report on their findings. They organise initiatives like monthly safety walks at service centers to monitor the safety and risks of the premises together. The challenges are the different ways of registering accidents in different countries and cultures, which results in an inability to compare the safety at work accident figures among subsidiaries. Moreover, the cost effects of sick leaves and absences are notable but not yet recognised by all the managers.

Thus, Lindström adopts myriad measures to make its main operations more sustainable which in turn has also resulted in significant cost savings in the long run.

It shows by example that strategic adoption of sustainability measures can help an organisation achieve operational excellence.

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