A perfect fit: Making the most out of ETP workwear through take-back

ETP’s take-back model aims to involve about 2,400 end users and potentially curb the production of new garments by 20 to 30%.

By Maya Classen

the team

ETP is a leading Dutch company in the design, development and production of custom-made corporate wear collections for various national and international companies. 

A cross-functional team from ETP joined the Switching Gear project.
Project Manager
Managing Director
Business Development Manager
Product Manager

the urgency

ETP’s goal is to keep their garments in use for as long as possible—a sentiment shared by their business customers. Joining the Switching Gear project was a natural stepping stone for the company, who was looking to develop a circular business model in line with their ambition to take their sustainability efforts beyond recycling and to build a futureproof business case. As a B2B workwear brand, they were also in a unique position to do so, as they had access to a wealth of relevant insights about their customers.

The customer need

There is a significant opportunity for improving workwear efficiencies, as a significant percentage of workwear garments is only slightly used before employees change jobs or sizes. When collected, these garments could easily be worn by other employees, reducing the need to produce more new items. This could not only result in significant impact savings—contributing to the customers’ CSR performance and image—it can also empower employees positively in engaging in sustainable behaviour. 

The business model

ETP will roll out their circular business model pilot with one of their clients, ABN AMRO. The resale is incentivised with a small, instant reward for employees who decide to go for a ‘second hand’ rather than a new uniform. Take-back of used garments will happen through collection boxes in the different ABN AMRO offices. Employees will be educated on the benefits of reuse through different online and offline communication materials.

The expected positive impact

With their pilot, ETP expects to reduce the total production of ABN AMRO workwear by 20 to 30% over the course of four years. As a B2B apparel brand, they have the advantage of being able to easily track and measure their impact through changes in production volume and in energy and CO2 savings. They expect results to be visible in the second year of the pilot, when enough items have been returned and can be brought back into circulation. For their ongoing production, they want to further focus on circular design and more sustainable materials.

Hurdles and lessons learnt

More proactive communications

While creating a blueprint for their circular business model, ETP realised they needed to be more proactive in their communications with their customers’ employees. Rather than reactively addressing employees’ requests, they would need to put the end user’s journey at the centre and anticipate their needs along the way. This is key, as they aim to give employees a feeling of pride and belonging with the company they work for and to inspire them to embrace sustainable behaviour through the uniform that they wear.

A controlled pilot

In order to reduce initial costs and learn more about the condition of products that are sent back, ETP decided to manage the sorting of returned items themselves once the pilot launches rather than outsource it to an external partner.

Beyond reuse

Meanwhile, the circular innovation process itself increased the ETP team’s level of expertise on the topic of circularity and challenged them to think outside the box and to be ambitious with their pilot design.

What’s next?

ETP’s pilot launch is planned for June 2021, when ETP will introduce the new collection for ABN AMRO. Shortly after, their couriers will pick up the old uniforms for recycling and set up the take-back collection points within the ABN AMRO offices. Although they are starting the pilot with only one customer, this is not a small scale operation: approximately 2,400 employees will be involved. ETP aims to spark their engagement, as enthusiasm for the concept will be key in making this pilot a success.

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