For over 60 years Bisley Workwear has been a leader in the Australian workwear industry providing the kit needed for workers across the country to “get the job done” in comfort and safety. Bisley represent a third of the workwear market in Australia.
Bisley’s sustainability journey began a few years ago, when they formed an ethical sourcing team to make sure they had a transparent and ethical supply chain, especially with regards to Modern Slavery.
As a result of that project, they were spurred on to consider the other impacts they were having and realised that there were other facets of their supply chain that also deserved attention; packaging and accessories particularly. Moira Smythe, Global ESG Manager, was in charge of overseeing the overhaul along with Bisley’s Managing Director David Gazal. She describes the process as “kind of ‘peeling back the onion. Initially it was just how to improve auditing procedures and workers’ wellbeing. Firstly we just looked at our ‘Tier 1’ suppliers, but now we’re going further back in our value chain and putting more governance around everything we’re doing.”
Bisley works with multiple manufacturers across 4 countries to produce over 5 million garments every year. It’s an extremely complex supply chain. To date, their manufacturers have been responsible for sourcing the poly bags their garments are packed in, so finding a new source of a sustainable poly bags wasn’t just going to be about finding the ‘best’ packaging, but also figuring out how to efficiently supply them to their manufacturers.
Moira explains, “While the motivation to do this came internally, we believe there will be a change in legislation and we want to be ahead of it for ourselves, but also for our customers.”
Bisley carries core lines of workwear that do not have a seasonal turnover and can be held in stock for longer stock turns. This meant that earlier sustainable solutions such as compostable poly bags were not an option due to their 10 month shelf life. In the beginning Moira felt like they were “searching for a unicorn”, as they wanted a sustainable poly bag that had no shelf-life restrictions and was better than just standard recycled plastic.
Moira and her team scoured the market for the latest in packaging innovation, but when she discovered Better Packaging Co.’s POLLAST!C Range the appeal was immediate. “We developed our new Bisley.POSITIVE mission statement which has our four pillars that are important to us: people, planet, product and prosperity. There are also four UN SDGs (United Nations Sustainable Development Goals) that we work towards… So when we found Better Packaging Co. and the way they linked their impact to the UN SDGs, which had become part of our Bisley DNA, we felt that there were a lot of synergies there. It’s been incredible to partner with people who have similar mandates and ideals … working with BPCo. has been a real joy. You’re very easy to work with. We didn’t have to put you under the microscope because you already had all of the information ready to provide to us! By working with BPCo we learnt a lot. It’s definitely helped elevate us in this space."
Switching out their previous poly bags for POLLAST!C poly bags was an easy ‘like-for-like’ swap, but Bisley also took the opportunity to remove the plastic hanging hooks that were included with some of the garment packaging. This resulted in a substantial virgin plastic reduction. Cost wise, “We have made a decision that moving to sustainable packaging is so important to us, that we are happy to absorb any cost difference in our GP and not pass it on to our customers” says Moira. However, since Bisley implemented the change, the cost of virgin plastic bags has risen with the cost of petroleum and as governments begin to implement plastics taxes like that of the UK so the price differential is likely to be even less today.
In terms of design, Bisley “love all of the messaging on the POLLAST!C packaging and have put it on the front and back and made the Bisley logo large so it’s very clear that this is how we’re moving forward. We want to be leaders in this space and help change the industry for the better.”
Bisley have adopted BPCo.’s “China poly model” whereby BPCo hold stock of Bisley’s poly bags in their warehouse in China. Bisley’s manufacturers are able to log into a special wholesale portal, order what packaging they need and it is shipped directly and quickly from BPCo’s local warehouse.
While Bisley’s motivation to establish a highly ethical and sustainable supply chain came internally, their customers were also asking them to do more. “Now, when we present to them what we’re doing, there’s such excitement” Moira says. “From a consumer point of view, what they can touch and feel is always going to have the most impact and they can see the new packaging and they feel empowered that they are also making a difference by buying these products.”
As a wholesaler, Bisley’s major customers have to submit tender documents to government departments and the like, “It’s a mandate now that there needs to be sustainable practices within the companies that are supplying their products. Councils really like that we are removing ocean bound plastic pollution and government departments find that to be an amazing story and are super-happy about it as well.” It’s become a real point of difference and a source of competitive advantage for Bisley. Moira says, “Our customers tell us, that we’re way out on front and they love that. For lots of our end customers, like large mining companies, knowing that this part of their supply chain – their uniforms and PPE – are ethically and sustainably sourced, is really important.”
Bisley has also recently been acquired by PIP® Global, an international provider of High Performance Protective Products. Moira attributes a large part of Bisley’s appeal to their strong ESG performance and leadership. Excitingly, Bisley’s learnings and progress will be used as the benchmark for the PIP® Global family.
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