The Citizen (KZN)
The belt and braces approach
5-STAR: FIRM HAS TRANSFORMED A TEXTILE MILL, OBTAINED RATING FOR INDUSTRIAL BUILDING
Focus on water efficiencies, working environment.
Durban-based Equator – The Belt Factory has become the first member of the local fashion supply industry to achieve a Five Star Green Star Certification for Existing Building Performance from the Green Building Council of South Africa.
The company, which has completely transformed a former textile mill in New Germany, one of Durban’s oldest industrial areas, is also only the fourth company to obtain a rating for an existing industrial building in South Africa.
Other notable SA achievers are Belgotex and Darling Brew.
The rating, which is comparable to other respected international certifications, focuses on energy use and water efficiencies, waste management and people’s
Leon Buhr, Managing Director of Equator - The Belt FactoryTM working environments. All these factors were not priorities, in a different era, when the factory was initially built by the then Frame Textiles in 1967.
An entrepreneurial success story in its own right, purchased the former textile mill in 2017 and has invested significantly in implementing a number of sustainability interventions and initiatives.
These include rainwater harvesting and water saving fittings, energy efficient fittings and systems, waste management systems (including reduction, recycling and composting), improved indoor environmental quality through the use of double-glazing, non-toxic paints and finishes, the use of second hand and upcycled furniture, employee training and operational initiatives to improve efficiency, material offcut donations and small business and employee development.
Managing director Leon Buhr says that it now requires less energy to make a belt from start to finish than it takes to make a cup of tea.
He says that, while this significant Five Star Green Star Certification marks a notable milestone for South Africa’s largest belt manufacturer, this is just part of a long-term journey.
For Equator the sustainability journey and intent to pioneer responsible manufacturing processes in South Africa goes far beyond a green building certification and box ticking exercise.
“For us, sustainability is a company-wide, all-encompassing effort that is becoming deeply ingrained in the company culture,” said Buhr.
“The certification is an important and credible marker of our progress and has taken a great deal of effort. It is said there is no destination for a sustainability journey – just daily improvement. But if one could define sustainability goals, it would be a circular economy and carbon neutrality.”
The company – which makes belts for retail and brand partners like Polo, Woolworths, Markham, Levi’s, Mr Price, Old Khaki, Jonsson and Foschini as well as for export and sale via its own online shop www.thebeltshop.co.za – has positioned itself as “a place of craft and a place of science”.
It seeks to set new standards in a fashion sector where consumers are becoming increasingly aware of a company’s purpose, sustainability and environmental issues. “The fashion retail supply chain starts with having the right product and value for the shopper, but it is much more than that,” said Buhr.
“Increasingly it is transparency, responsible and ethical sourcing of raw materials, environment, good working conditions, compliance and more. We can no longer be just a belt factory. Our sustainability journey must make sense to the industry, our retail and brand partners and the consumer. We have to be product, raw material and consumer trend specialists.”