Jeff Keam, director of Asquith Group, explains why the company has developed a range of eco labels

Jeff Keam, director of Asquith Group

The impact of the apparel industry on the environment, both in terms of the resources it uses and the pollution it creates, has been under increasing scrutiny over the past couple of years as the focus on climate change has intensified.

There is mounting pressure on garment decorators to produce more sustainable products, with attention paid to every aspect of the process, from the raw materials and the suppliers they choose, right through to production, packaging and the after-life of a product.

According to Jeff Keam, director of British label company Asquith Group, questions such as, ‘Can it be reused or recycled?’ and ‘Will it biodegrade?’ are ones that he is hearing more and more from customers.

“Typically, customers ask us for three types of eco label: organic, recycled or biodegradable,” he explains. “Of course, it isn’t uncommon for a garment to be made from organic or natural fibres, or recycled or repurposed materials, but often the trimmings and labels are not. This is a pity when a lot of time and effort has gone into the creation of an ‘eco-friendly’ product.” He believes the failure to use an eco label is due to a number of factors, including limited availability, cost implications and the fact that labelling can be last on the list of components to budget and source. Asquith began developing its range of eco labels in November 2018 to help counter these issues, and launched them in September this year.

Eco options

“Whether customers are looking to reduce, reuse or recycle, we have a label that works well with their eco product,” Jeff states. “We’ve worked with our European supply chain to source eco textile threads that offer improved or increased percentages of biodegradable or recycled materials but, like many eco-friendly options, there is no ‘one- size fits all’ option.”

For customers who are trying to reduce the use of plastic in their products, he suggests cotton, wool, hemp or silk may be a suitable alternative, while clients who prefer not to use virgin materials can opt for labels manufactured from recycled polyester threads. “This uses a mechanical process to transform post-consumer plastic bottles into a polymer without the use of chemicals which could be harmful for the environment,” Jefff explains. “This recycled polyester, which requires fewer processing stages, consumes less energy during the production process, resulting in a considerable reduction in carbon emissions compared with virgin polyester.”

He reports that Asquith has been stringent in ensuring its recycled polyester threads meet GRS (Global Recycling Scheme) standards, noting that in his experience, “there are many suppliers that make eco claims, but the products do not meet these standards”. He adds: “The same goes for woven organic cotton labels – the genuine articles are rare and expensive to manufacture and we are still working on a range of organic cotton labels that meet GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standards).”

Early adopters

Jeff says that the range of alternative eco labelling options is “complex”, and points out that occasionally there’s a price increase between Asquith’s standard labels and its new eco alternatives. “However, increasingly, our early adopter customers believe it’s a price worth paying,” he reports. “Often, choosing an alternative label is less a question of cost and more about ethics and brand values. Companies are then able to use these eco credentials as an additional selling point, which appeals to consumer demand for more environmentally friendly products.”

Although the company has already taken significant steps in its eco journey, there is still more it can do, he says. “We aim to continue to increase the percentage of biodegradable and recycled fibres we use in each label, increase the number of colours available in our recycled polyester range, move all polyester woven labels to recycled threads, and increase awareness of eco labels and encourage clients to switch.”