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Tomorrow’s FM speaks to Simon Ash, HAIX Sales Manager in the UK and Ireland, about how the company is facing the challenge of sustainability and innovating in material sourcing and production.

Q:          Do you think it’s possible to achieve a successful sustainable strategy in PPE manufacturing?

There’s no doubt that working towards a sustainable future is a challenge for many businesses and it’s no different in PPE manufacturing.  HAIX is focussed on making the largest possible contribution to a better future and our approach is quite clear, in that we want to move away from disposable products at the same time as focussing on customer safety which remains our primary goal.  Sustainability is a route which we are committed to and we will work hard to meet our targets.  We have a set of goals to achieve this including: reducing energy consumption, waste and emissions; focussing on the longevity and reparability of our product; developing more environmentally friendly packaging; and building on our social responsibility throughout the HAIX family.

Q.          Can you tell us a little more about the actions you are focussed on?

Our sustainable practices are part of a long-term strategy aimed at minimising our environmental footprint.  We see sustainability as one system and are taking a holistic view to planning and implementing our strategy.  We are focussing on three core themes ‘Made in Europe; We Are Family; Repair and Care.’ 

We continue to be proud of our ‘Made in Europe’ credentials, ensuring that we remain close to the heart of our manufacturing processes, procurement management and our supply chain.  We work with partners who meet our strict criteria and who are also dedicated to managing how they also work towards a better future for the world we live in.

We are a family-run company, celebrating our 75th Anniversary this year, we care deeply about our people, our long-standing partnerships with dealers and suppliers and our commitment to the community we serve.  We take on around 70 apprentices each year and the HAIX Academy supports individual training needs to ensure our people are experts and provide the best advice and guidance to our customers.

HAIX has always had a reputation for quality in design and production and we believe that sticking to the principles of using the best quality materials, sourced from certified suppliers who are also achieving sustainable targets, we will not compromise on the quality of our product.  Our products are made to last and to assist in helping our customers extend the life of their footwear further, we offer an in-house repair service, supported by a worldwide network of trusted, skilled repair partners.

Some of the measures we have implemented include:

  • Certified environmental management system in accordance with ISO 14001 
  • Certified energy management system in accordance with ISO 50001
  • Major savings in the electricity sector in 2022: 25,000 kWh through technical improvements (= more than 6x four-person households consume and approx. 2% of the electricity consumption of all our locations in DE incl. stores)
  • Energy-efficient construction (e.g. new logistics centre consumes only 55% of the energy and is 30% better in terms of heat loss (insulation) compared to reference buildings under the Building Energy Act)
  • Savings of more than 100 tonnes of polyurethane annually through optimisations in the production area (reduces waste and resource consumption)
  • 95% of packaging materials made from renewable materials
  • Biodiversity-friendly production site, e.g. with insect hotels, flower strips and green roofs

Q.          Can you give us some examples of how you are achieving your goals?

We have brought together a dedicated in-house ‘sustainability’ team, lead by Josef Cremer in the role of Sustainability Officer.  The team identifies and develops new initiatives to enable us to meet our targets.  This is supported throughout the business as we encourage all employees to organise and work on sustainability projects in their departments.

This is all backed up by external audit and certification, such as OEKO-TEX Standard 100 and Leather Standard, production site auditing by BSCI and other safety, quality and environmental certificates. 

We collect environmental data on water and energy consumption, renewable energy use, waste generation and CO2 emissions (Scope 1-3) at all our sites in Europe. As an example, at our headquarters site in Germany, we use renewable district heating from a woodchip-fired thermal power plan.  In addition, we draw electricity from our own dedicated photovoltaic systems and additional purchased electricity is 100% from renewable sources.  These kinds of initiatives are replicated across our production site in Croatia.

Q:          How has sustainability influenced your product design processes?

I think it’s true to say that our environmental focus has stimulated real innovation in our design and manufacturing.  HAIX products have a deserved reputation for quality and durability.  HAIX products are not ‘throw away’ items.  They are built to last.  We have invested significantly in the development of sustainable materials. In addition, we are looking at ways to increase the use of recycled materials in the components that make up our footwear without diminishing its durability and functionality. We carry out extensive wear trials to make sure our footwear meets the high standards customers can expect from us and carry out quality testing in our own laboratories, looking at the products we produce as well as carrying out market surveillance on competitor products and alternative materials.  

Products are designed to be repaired when necessary, extending the life of the product beyond others on the market.  We have our own dedicated repair workshop, employing master shoemakers who can repair and service our products.  In other regions, we have formed a network of trusted, skilled partners who can offer this service to customers across the globe. This also promotes the preservation of expertise (shoemaking) and regional jobs in the footwear industry.

Q:          Are HAIX products fully recyclable?

Given the products are designed to be long lasting and offer protection against harsh environments, some critical component parts are difficult to be fully recyclable.  However, HAIX shoes can be thermally recycled to generate electricity and heat that can be supplied to households and industry.  Thermal recycling is an efficient and sustainable form of waste disposal that saves fossil fuel usage and reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

Q:          What can we expect in the future as you continue on your sustainable journey?

We will be working on continuous improvement in the sustainability performance of our products - both in the ecological and social areas.

In the area of climate protection, for example, we endeavour to avoid CO2 emissions at source instead of offsetting them. Our entire vehicle fleet will be converted to electromobility by 2026. The area of PV systems on our roofs has almost tripled in 2023 - further systems are being planned. 

CO2 savings are also being planned in the areas of material consumption, logistics and employee journeys.

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