HSSMI Focuses on Circular Economy

HSSMI has three pillars that support everything we do: productivity, upscaling, and circular economy,” says Savina Venkova, Circular Economy Manager at HSSMI. “This year we chose to really focus on the latter. It’s proved very timely.” 

Industries worldwide have slowed down in 2020, amid lockdown restrictions and decreasing demand for many goods and resources. In response to this disruption, calls have grown for a concerted global effort to ‘build back better’. 

Sustainability is at the top of the agenda for many companies: Burberry and Inditex were among the fashion businesses that signed a joint statement led by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation in June, expressing their commitment to build back better through the promotion of a circular economy with minimises waste and maximises the value of every resource.

Specialising in supporting clients with agile, innovative manufacturing solutions, HSSMI has developed a range of new products and services helping businesses transition to circular economy models. Among these are the Circular Economy Bootcamps that launched earlier this year at HSSMI’s three offices in London, Glasgow and Birmingham. 

With an in-depth introduction to the principles of circular economy, each session gave companies an opportunity to examine what a circular business model could look like for them and the first steps to adopting more circular practices. 

Tristan Coats delivers a HSSMI Circular Economy Bootcamp
HSSMI’s Circular Economy Bootcamps began earlier this year

HSSMI is also offering Circular Economy Maturity Assessments for businesses that want to build on the learnings from each bootcamp, with tailored support to set targets and build a detailed roadmap towards circularity. 

“We find that businesses often think of circular economy as a ‘green initiative’ that’s more related to corporate social responsibility,” says Savina. “In fact, circular business models deliver real financial benefits. That’s what we enable our clients to access.” 

Six core principles underpin HSSMI’s approach to circular economy: systems thinking, stewardship, innovation, transparency, value optimisation, and collaboration. Each of these plays an important role in the company’s latest research and development (R&D) project supported by Future Fashion Factory. 

Making the best use of every resource requires circular thinking throughout the value chain, and even across industries. So when HSSMI identified an opportunity to retain the value of a luxury resource from the automotive sector, the company looked to the wider manufacturing sector for new uses. 

It is generally accepted that it takes eight cow hides to manufacture a single leather car seat. Some never make it into the vehicle where there are small errors such as stitching, while others go to waste when the car reaches the end of its life. This means the automotive sector is producing a valuable resource for which it does not have another use, though another manufacturer may be able to maximise its value. 

“Our team has extensive expertise in the automotive sector, working with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to optimise their production lines. In this project, we wanted to confirm that leather used in car seats can be given a second life and turned into a new product. We knew this required a cross-industry approach,” says Tristan Coats, who is a Technical Specialist at HSSMI and will be leading the new project. 

Burberry is working with HSSMI to find new life for luxury automotive leather. Image: Tim Westcott

The project, funded in Future Fashion Factory’s second innovation funding call, will see HSSMI join forces with the University of Leeds as well as Miretur Ltd, luxury fashion house Burberry, and the University of Huddersfield, each with a wealth of experience and knowledge in areas including manufacturing, sustainability, logistics, design and fashion.  

This cross-sector approach will enable the project team to explore how the value from automotive seat leather could be maximized to deliver positive change for the fashion industry. 

The objective of the project is to deliver workable solutions for retailers that are looking to transition towards more circular business models for designing leather accessories. This collaborative effort is expected to contribute to generating new revenue streams and reducing demand for new material throughout the fashion industry. 

Sustainability and the circular economy represent a Core Research Theme for Future Fashion Factory, focusing on reducing waste at every stage of the product life cycle from design to manufacturing – even to end of life through research on recycling and product design for disassembly. 

“We joined the Future Fashion Factory community to connect with fashion partners and share expertise,” Tristan adds. “It’s fantastic to combine our existing network with a whole new industry and facilitate Burberry’s research on more circular business models that repurpose products and offcut waste.”