The Citizen (KZN)

The belt and braces approach


- Citizen reporter

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.thebeltsho­ – 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.”

 ?? Pictures: Supplied ?? LEON BUHR.
UNDER HIS BELT. Informal trader Musa Mkhize, left, with Lungani Manqele, one of the enterprise developmen­t partners at Equator – the Belt Factory.
Pictures: Supplied LEON BUHR. UNDER HIS BELT. Informal trader Musa Mkhize, left, with Lungani Manqele, one of the enterprise developmen­t partners at Equator – the Belt Factory.
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