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Workwear that celebrates individuality and circular economy

The S Group has invested in the wellbeing of its supermarket staff by renewing workwear in its Prisma, S-market and Sale chains across Finland. The work clothes designed, delivered and maintained by Lindström, are functional, stylish and take individual needs into account. They are an important part of work ability, professional pride and a sense of belonging for about 30,000 S Group employees working in supermarket trade chains. The staff was actively involved in the design process of the workwear. Recyclable materials and the long life cycle of the clothes support the S Group’s climate goals. The Group has set clear requirements for its partners in terms of social and environmental responsibility. Through work clothes, the employees represent the same values that the Group’s own products represent.

The new workwear eagerly awaited by the S Group’s supermarket staff was introduced in the first S Group stores in late 2021. The uniforms are part of the renewed store look, but above all, the goal of the new collection was to support the Group’s social responsibility: wellbeing at work and coping. They are also part of S-ergo, the S Group-level development programme for workplace ergonomics.

The S Group has set itself a goal of being carbon-negative in 2025 and is constantly searching for new operating models related to the circular economy. In the new workwear collection, responsibility for the environment can be seen in the reuse of garments and their long life cycle. The aprons in the collection are partly made of recycled material, as 10 percent of the fabric is made of fibres from recycled workwear.

What kind of criteria were set for the new work clothes, Nina Elomaa, Senior Vice President of Sustainability at the S Group?

“We wanted to offer our employees highly ergonomic work outfits that fit well, are flexible and stay in place when moving around – making it easier to work. It is crucial that the materials do not cause irritation to the skin and the heat load of the garments can be easily adjusted by dressing in layers. Ideal workwear is comfortable, suitable for everyone and considers people’s differences.

In our stores, employees work in various tasks, e.g., in food departments, cold storage rooms, cashiers and info desks, so there must be clothes for every occasion and need. The look must please the eye of the wearer and be contemporary in terms of patterns and colours, for example. At the same time, from the point of view of environmental responsibility, timelessness is important so that there is no need to renew the collection every year.”

The S Group promotes diversity in the workplace. How is this demonstrated in workwear?

“We want to build an accepting and non-discriminatory work culture and a work community where every employee can be themselves. Not everyone is cut from the same tree – and this is absolutely fine. The new supermarket workwear collection includes a wide variety of tops, bottoms and accessories. The fact that there are several options that can put together a unique outfit supports our diversity goals. For example, there is a wide range of headwear to choose from, from beanies and headbands to hijabs.”

How is the staff’s handprint reflected in the collection?

“The staff was actively involved in the design of the clothes. All employees could, among other things, vote on patterns. We did several trials with our staff and gained a lot of valuable information about the functionality of the materials and how the details of the clothes work in everyday life. Based on the feedback, changes and improvements were made to the collection both in terms of cut and the materials. Pilots are extremely important in order to make the selection compelling.”

How do you choose your partners and suppliers, and how much emphasis is placed on responsibility?

“Our stakeholders’ expectations are constantly growing, and it is essential that our partners also invest in sustainable development. We set strict requirements for our partners and suppliers and have clear minimum criteria for social and environmental responsibility, in order to ensure equal treatment of suppliers.

We have drawn up policies on the materials used, pay attention to the fact that the clothes are manufactured in factories that have been audited properly and that our ethical principles are followed, for example, in terms of employee safety, wellbeing and human rights. We also require our partners to take care of environmental responsibility throughout the chain.”

What kind of environmental requirements must the clothes meet?

“We have set goals for increasing recycled materials in both our own textiles which we sell and our work clothes. At the same time, we take into account the entire life cycle of the garment: it must be washable, durable and of high quality so that it can be used for a long time. The products we sell in our supermarkets are not disposable fast fashion, and we want to follow this same idea in our work clothes as well. Through work clothes, our employees represent the same values that our own products also represent.”

Why did you choose Lindström as your partner?

“Lindström’s strengths are the comprehensive service it offers and the circular economy aspect of clothing: they are made of sustainable and responsible materials and washed in a way that saves water and energy. If necessary, the clothes are repaired, and when the life cycle of the clothes finally comes to an end, the clothes are responsibly recycled and used in recycled fibre and new products. We have a background of long partnership in several workwear projects, both in retail and in restaurants. The secret of successful cooperation lies in developing ideas together.”

Lindström Group