Sustainable procurement – uniforms

Wendy Thorne is Assistant Purchasing Manager and writes about how NHSBT endeavours to comply with sustainable procurement.

One of the NHSBT Sustainability Strategy objectives is a sustainable supply chain. This is a real challenge to achieve for the hotspot area of clothing as approximately 2000 people working at NHSBT wear a uniform.

We constantly see reports in the media of our high street clothing chains and worldwide brands falling foul of not fully understanding their supply chains and the labour standards including health and safety for workers within those supply chains.

The NHS spends circa £12.5M per year in this area (£8M on uniform and work-wear, £3M on personal protective equipment and £1.5M on footwear 2016) of which NHSBT is a very small percentage.

Although the NHS does not experience the same pressure to maintain a competitive advantage as the high street, there is massive pressure on budgets to ensure as much money goes towards frontline care.  So there is a synergy in cost pressures between the high street brands and the NHS when buying items of clothing. However, the NHS is an organisation about health and wellbeing and most would agree that this ethos should extend to the workers in its supply chains.  As an NHSBT staff member who wears a uniform, how can you have the reassurance that your uniform is not made by an exploited worker in unsafe conditions?

NHS Supply Chain has set up a Labour Standards Assurance System against which suppliers to the NHS are audited to demonstrate how they are managing labour rights in their organisation and their supply chain.

Simon Jersey supplies Blood Donation uniforms. The company is based in Lancashire but sources the uniforms from Tunisia and the Far East. The company says: “We take respect for human rights and compliance with labour laws very seriously. To ensure that we uphold high standards, we have adopted a Code of Standards based on the Base Code, and are working within the Labour Standards Assurance System  to provide an extra level of corporate, social and ethical governance with regards to labour standards, along with being members of Sedex (the Supplier Ethical Data Exchange).”

The work that has been done so far and the progress made has made a good step in the right direction,. However, there is still more to be done and, as NHSBT and as consumers in our home lives, we have the power collectively to influence these business and suppliers to achieve higher Labour Standards worldwide in our choices to buy.  Therefore, I would encourage everyone to look at every item they buy and read the fine print: is it Fair Trade, is it locally sourced, can you hold the brand to account to ensure that everyone involved in the supply chain is treated in a way they expect to be treated themselves.

If you are interested in sustainable procurement, leave a comment for Wendy in the box below.

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    Hi Wendy,
    Currently we are unable to return uniforms unless they have a fault. Is there going to be any change to this? We must be currently wasting thousands on uniforms that are being disposed off needlessly

    • 3

      Hi Gail,
      If the uniform you have is an incorrect size and hasn’t been worn we can return free if charge to the supplier for credit.
      If you can email me the details of the garments you have (type of garment, colour of garment and size), I will arrange for one of the team to liaise with you and the supplier to arrange a collection.
      Unfortunately we cannot return anything that has been worn / washed as the supplier returns it to the shelf fir re-sale, so needs to be in a re-saleable state.
      Kind regards.

    • 4

      Hi Gail,

      I’m unclear from your post and not having a Donor Carer background, why are thousands of uniforms being disposed of needlessly?

      Kind regards,


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