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When you think of an industrial mill, you are likely to think of belching smoke and the clatter of machinery but since 1994 a redundant mill tucked away in a residential area in Mansfield has been the unlikely epicentre of a recycling initiative which has saved 24,000 tonnes of textiles from landfill every year.
Savanna Rags works with councils, charities and businesses across the UK to collect clothing, shoes and textiles which are brought to Savanna Mill for processing.
The company’s green credentials are vitally important so no item of clothing goes into landfill. Usable clothing is sorted, graded and bundled for resale in Africa and Eastern Europe. The rest is sent to be shredded and recycled into cloths which have a range of industrial uses including polishing expensive cars in car showrooms.
Since inception, the company’s management systems had been informally documented but customer demand made it clear that a more structured response would bring its own rewards. Martin Kinsella, the company’s Finance Manager explains that the decision to go for certification was therefore easy to make, “We were doing a lot of work with councils and were constantly being asked if we were certificated to the ISO 9001 (Quality) and ISO 14001 (Environmental) standards. We recognised that achieving certification would give us the opportunity to stand out from our competitors and get our name out to bigger companies as well as reassuring our public sector clients. This dovetailed with our growth strategy so we decided to go for it.”
Martin continues, “We’re a relatively simple business so we weren’t sure if we’d see the effects of the ISO internally. During the three years that we have been certified, we’ve found that communication is key. We ensure that the flow of information from the auditors and ISO Quality Services Ltd is relayed to our 150 employees on the factory floor, this means that they are aware of quality processes as well as conscious of the environment. I have seen the direct impact around the factory, staff are aware of how quality and the environment impact on our success as a business. One example is the drive to separate paper, cardboard, plastics, metal and timber. All staff support this work practice and reuse volumes are increasing.”
For those who are starting on their ISO journey, Martin has these reassuring words, “The whole process has brought us to a situation where we think about quality and the environment on a day to day basis. We’ve seen the return in regards to business as well as the benefits internally. We can see that ISO standards can be effective in any size of business and when you follow the procedures and guidelines, they work!”
As well as continuing its business relationships with councils, Savanna’s certification has helped it win new business from private concerns within the textile sector. These successes have helped boost Savanna’s charitable giving and the company has given over £5.5 million to a variety of charities in recent years.