Sustainability is a guiding principle for our organization. We recognize how the fashion industry affects the environment and we are taking steps to minimize our carbon footprint in tangible ways. In partnership with our clients, vendors and business partners, we create packaging and labeling solutions that address environmental, social, ethical and corporate governance concerns.
SUPPLY CHAIN TRACEABILITY
We are transparent about our production practices, and follow strict quality control guidelines at each of our factories and offices.
RESPECTFUL AND SECURE WORK ENVIRONMENTS
Across the globe, our offices and factories are healthy, secure and sustainable spaces that foster well-being for our employees and their communities. We make sure that all our employees enjoy a safe and secure work environment.
EFFICIENT USE OF NATURAL RESOURCES
We encourage our factories to track their water, energy, and chemicals consumption, so we can reduce our carbon footprint.
SUSTAINABLE AND ECO-FRIENDLY RAW MATERIALS
We offer high-quality, sustainable, eco-friendly and recyclable raw materials for all of our products.
ECO FRIENDLY PACKAGING AND LABELLING
- FSC packaging and hangtags
- Soy ink printing
- Water-degradable stickers
- Degradable and recyclable polybags
- Recycled polyester labels
- Organic cotton labels
Since 2015, 186 countries have been adopted the 2030 United Nations Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Sustainable development has been defined as development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. For sustainable development to be achieved, it is crucial to harmonize three core elements: economic growth, social inclusion and environmental protection.
The Unique Group has built its sustainable agenda on these 17 goals and is implementing several programs, policies and partnerships to meet them. We aim to share knowledge, expertise, technology and financial resources in those countries in which we operate.
The following are some of the steps we are taking to meet our goals:
Clean water and sanitation: We ensure our factories are properly managing water discharge-related impacts, and are working towards reducing their water consumption by 30% without affecting production.
Affordable and clean energy: We track our energy consumption and are implementing action plans to improve energy efficiency by 30% in all our facilities.
Responsible consumption and production:
- We track the product life cycles of our solutions and manufacturer's processes to ensure we are meeting our goals.
- We share information to create a socially responsible post-consumption of our products.
- We are introducing sustainable and eco-friendly raw materials in each of our product lines.
- We ensure our factories are managing the impacts of effluents and chemicals.
- We implement policies in all our facilities that help the reduction, recycling and reuse of paper and other stationery materials.
Life below water: To reduce marine pollution, we promote the use of recycled polyester yarn in all our labels.
Life on land: We promote sustainable management of all types of forests by offering products made by FSC certification.
At The Unique Group, we follow corporate guidelines for creating positive social impacts on our environment, with stakeholders and customers. Our compliance program meets external regulations and laws for companies.
We employ rigorous governance and risk management programs, focused on achieving corporate goals while mitigating risk. We provide our employees with a safe and secure work environment by forbidding any form of discrimination, and all anti-corruption and anti-bribery policies are strictly followed.
Organic Cotton Labels
From t-shirts to socks to tea towels, cotton is a ubiquitous part of our everyday lives. Cotton is soft and durable, so it's no surprise it is one of the most widely used raw materials. However, the traditional process for creating cotton often harms the planet.
Producing cotton is extremely chemically intensive. For context, cotton plantations cover 2.5% of the world's cultivated land, but cotton production accounts for 10-16% of the world's pesticides. That's significantly more than any other single major crop. The traditional method of producing cotton affects the environment in many ways:
- Poor air and water pollution
- An adverse effect on the health of people in cotton-growing areas.
- Decreased biodiversity in the areas where cotton is produced
Thankfully, there is a more sustainable alternative to traditional cotton: organic cotton. According to a 2016 report by the Textile Exchange, organic cotton has 46% less of an impact on the environment, compared to conventionally grown cotton. Organic cotton is grown using methods and materials that have a low environmental impact. Organic production systems replenish soil fertility, reduce the use of toxic pesticides and fertilizers, and build biologically diverse agriculture.
What is organic cotton?
To be considered organic cotton, the material must meet strict federal regulations covering how farms grow cotton. When you choose organic cotton, you can be confident it has no toxic pesticides or synthetic fertilizers. Also, federal laws prohibit the use of genetically engineered seed for organic farming, which means organic cotton is GMO-free.To be classified as organic, cotton labels must contain at least 70% organic fibers.
What are the environmental guidelines for organic cotton?
There are stringent guidelines that govern what qualifies as organic cotton. Firstly, all chemical inputs used to create cotton, such as dyestuffs (dye) must meet specific environmental and toxicological criteria. Beyond that, the technologies used must be eco-friendly. Most importantly, the entire textile supply chain must meet sustainable standards. Below is a summary of the essential guidelines for producing organic cotton.
A functional wastewater treatment plant is mandatory for any wet-processing unit involved, and all processors must comply with established criteria.
- Organic cotton can not contain toxic heavy metals, formaldehyde, aromatic solvents, functional nano particles, genetically modified organisms (GMO) and their enzymes
- The use of synthetic sizing agents is restricted
- Knitting and weaving oils must not contain heavy metals
- No chlorine-based bleaches can be used
- Azo dyes that release carcinogenic amine compounds are prohibited
- Discharge printing methods using aromatic solvents and plastisol printing methods using phthalates and PVC are prohibited
- Wet processing units must keep full records of the use of chemicals, energy, water consumption, and wastewater treatment, including the disposal of sludge.
- The wastewater from all wet processing units must be treated in a functional wastewater treatment plant.
What are the benefits of organic cotton?
When you choose organic cotton, you can be confident you are using quality materials. The organic cotton labels that we offer have a low carbon footprint and is free from harsh chemicals and genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
- Natural, untreated GMO-free seeds.
- Natural and non-toxic dyes
- Low-impact, water-based inks and/or pigments with no heavy metals.
- An ethical choice. We make our cotton in healthy, safe, and equitable working environments.
Soy Ink Printing
Soy Ink. A sustainable alternative for packaging and labeling printing.
The rich history of soy ink stems back to 1979. Soy-based ink was first used in 1979 by the Newspaper Organization of America as an alternative to expensive petroleum ink. American publishers were delighted with the quality of the ink and the news spread fast.
Today, 90% of American newspapers use soy-based ink. As time has passed soy-based ink has grown to become a popular ink option for top brands and publishers for many reasons. Compared to petroleum, ink from soy is a more viable and environmentally-friendly ink solution.
Using soy ink is a great way for a company to reduce its carbon footprint. At the Unique Group, we offer a suite of soybean-based ink products, read on to learn more about the benefits of soy bean ink.
What is soy ink?
Soy ink is an eco-friendly ink that comes from soybeans, which is one of the most renewable food sources available. It can be farmed without irrigation.
The Benefits of Soy-Based Ink in Product Packaging
As opposed to traditional petroleum-based ink, soy-based ink is more environmentally-friendly. While it is slightly slower to dry than other inks, it has a host of benefits for the environment and your pocketbook.
Cost-effective: Cost is always a concern when designing packaging for your product. It's the same for small or large businesses. Soy ink produces a more vibrant and intense color, which in turn reduces the amount of ink printed on materials.
Transfer-proof: Soy ink has a lower boiling point than most ink alternatives, so ink is less likely to transfer over to the machine instead of the material during printing.
High-quality materials: Soy ink's high lithographic stability through printing means fewer adjustments throughout the entire process. That means fewer copies that have to be tossed due to poor quality.
A low environmental impact: Soy ink also has low levels of VOCs, (volatile organic compounds) which helps to reduce air pollution by minimizing toxic emissions.
Recyclable: Soy ink is a helpful component in paper recycling because soy ink can be removed more easily than regular ink from paper during the de-inking process.
By using clearer soybean oil grades, less pigment is necessary to produce the same optical effect, which reduces the cost of the ink. Soy ink spreads approximately 15% further, reducing ink use and printer cleanup costs.
Soy inks also work well for label printing as they allow a reduction in ink coverage by 85% compared to water-based inks.
The Bottom Line
Soy ink is a great way to be environmentally responsible with your packaging. Sustainability is no longer a "nice to have" feature for companies - being ethically responsible can play a big part in a company's branding. It's crucial that companies step up and do their part for the environment and every bit helps. From soy print ink to organic cotton we can help you improve your brand's sustainability initiatives. To learn more about how your company can go green with soy ink printing, contact us today.
FSC Accredited Boards
The Unique Group is committed to upholding the highest environmental standards, which is why we have obtained certification from the renowned Forest Stewardship Council. The Forest Stewardship Council (commonly referred to as the FSC) is an international certification system that identifies responsibly managed forests and wood products.
When you use FSC-certified products from the Unique Group, you can feel confident you are using responsibly sourced, high-quality wood, and paper products.
To obtain an FSC certification, forests must be managed to the highest environmental, social, and economic standards. The FSC approach to sustainability is holistic.
When strategizing on how to protect the forest, Aboriginal Peoples, forest workers, industry, and forest owners try to come to a consensus on how the forest will be managed. This is what makes the FSC system unique and ensures that a forest is well-managed.
The FSC and Climate Change
When you choose FSC-certified products you take a stand against climate change. The FSC contributes to mitigating climate change by promotion response forest management, and by promoting recycled materials.
The FSC's forest management standards give special attention to protecting the function of forests as the removers of CO2 from the atmosphere. Some direct benefits generated from the environmental impact of FSC certification in the forest include:
- Minimization of waste and damages from harvesting
- An increase in the size and number of protected forest areas
- Retention of old trees and fallen wood for habitat
Our FSC-certified Products
We offer FSC-certified products for packaging and printing materials. By choosing these products, you will be protecting rare and endangered forests, wildlife, aboriginal people's rights, community, and worker's rights.
The Unique Group follows the FSC regulations to ensure our responsibility in the chain of custody for paper products that come from FSC approved sources.
Note: FSC-certified paper products can contain any balance of pre-consumer and post-consumer reclaimed material as long as all applicable parts of the product are verified as reclaimed. This means that you can use paper from certified raw materials or certified recycled materials.
Recycled Polyester Labels
While choosing to use a reusable water bottle is an eco-friendly choice, by using eco-friendly labels, your company can reduce water bottle waste drastically.
What is recycled polyester yarn?
Recycled polyester yarn is an excellent eco-friendly material that can be used to produce woven and printed labels and other fashion garments. It is a sustainable form of polyester, composed of 100% recycled PET (polyethylene terephthalate), the material used to make water bottles.
How is recycled polyester created?
The recycled polyester fiber is manufactured from used PET bottles (these bottles are often used to hold pop, water, or fruit juices). To create the fiber, PET bottles are cleaned, then grounded and melted into plastic granulate chips. Next, the chips are used to spin industrial grade polyester yarns. Sometimes these chips are mixed with traditional or "virgin" polyester. The end result is a fiber with the same mechanical performance of virgin polyester. In short, a fabric made of "recycled polyester" is typically composed of a percentage of melted PET chips.
Why is choosing recycled fiber is an eco-friendly choice?
Imagine if we could recycle those millions of water bottles we use every year for something practical and sustainable? That's where PET yarn comes in. Unlike other recycling processes, recycled polyester can be created without petroleum. By choosing our recycled polyester labels, you get the same technical performance in fibers with a smaller environmental footprint.
Producing PET materials like polyester yarn results in no harmful emissions. In fact, PET recycling reduces CO2 emissions. For every kilo of recycled PET, 3 kg of CO2 emissions are prevented. Here is a tangible example of how choosing PET labels help the planet: Recycling 1,000 kg of PET stops the production of up to 3,000 kg of greenhouse gasses, which corresponds to the average total emissions of a car in a year.
What are the best uses for recycled polyester labels?
- Outdoor clothing
- Casual apparel
- Industrial textile
- Home textile
PLA Degradable Poly Bags
What is PLA?
Polylactic acid or polylactide (PLA) is a thermoplastic aliphatic polyester. It is used primarily as a decomposable packaging material. Many brands use PLA to create bags, cups, and packaging.
How is PLA used?
PLA can be used to produce a decomposable packaging material, either cast, injection-molded, or spun. Since the material is so multifaceted it can be used for a variety of products, including:
- Cups and bags
- Loose-fill packaging, compost bags, food packaging, and disposable tableware.
- Fibers for upholstery, disposable garments, awnings, feminine hygiene products, and diapers.
- A polymeric scaffold for pharmaceutical packaging
- Medical screws
Why choose polylactide?
The primary advantage of polylactide is it's both biodegradable and non-toxic. PLA products are 100% biodegradable and compostable, so using polylactide is a key way the companies can help the planet. PLA material decays as a result of exposure to the ultraviolet rays of sunlight and oxygen. When it decomposes it forms carbon dioxide and water, which presents no danger to the environment.
If you are concerned about compromising on quality by choosing PLA then have no fear. PLA plastics have similar features to traditional petroleum plastics (PS, PP, and PET), but they're considerably more eco-friendly. For example, the production of PLA uses less energy and generates 75% fewer greenhouse gases than the production of conventional plastics.
In an industrial composting facility under optimum conditions (oxygen, moisture, and heat), PLA can be completely decomposed in 8-12 weeks.
From what is PLA made?
PLA is usually made from a fermented plant starch such as corn, cassava, sugarcane or sugar beet pulp. Polylactide (PLA), is a renewable thermoplastic and a polymer. It is 'processed' from the starch of plants such as corn, sugar cane, and sugar beet, making it environmentally-friendly, and sustainable. Fermentation of the sugars from these plants produces lactic acid and after further reactions, lactide forms. After more processing and polymerization, polylactide resin is produced. The resulting resin can be injection and blow-molded, to form the bags.
How is PLA made?
Polylactic acid is principally made through two different processes: condensation and polymerization. The most common polymerization technique is known as ring-opening polymerization. This is a process that utilizes metal catalysts in combination with a lactide to create the larger PLA molecules. The condensation process is similar to ring-opening polymerization. The principal difference being the temperature during the procedure and the by-products (condensates) that are released as a consequence of the reaction.
These four end-of-life scenarios for PLA are the most common:
- Recycling: PLA can be recycled either chemically or mechanically. Currently, the SPI resin identification code 7 ("others") is applicable for PLA. In Belgium, Galactic started the first pilot unit to chemically recycle PLA (Loopla). Unlike mechanical recycling, waste material can hold various contaminants. Polylactic acid can be recycled to monomer molecules by thermal depolymerization or hydrolysis. When purified, the monomer can be used for the manufacturing of virgin PLA with no loss of original properties (cradle-to-cradle recycling).
- Composting: PLA is biodegradable under industrial composting conditions starting with an hydrolysis process and following with the action of microorganisms to ultimately degrade the PLA.
- Incineration: PLA can be incinerated leaving no residue and producing 19.5MJ/kg (8,368 btu/lb) of energy.
- Landfill: The less preferable option would be landfilling as PLA degrades very slowly in ambient temperatures.
Go Green: The advantages of using PLA for your products
Globally, bioplastics, such as PLA make up nearly 331,000 tons (300,000 metric tons) of the plastics market. That may sound like a lot, but bioplastics only account for less than 1% of the 200 million tons (181 million metric tons) of the plastics the world produces each year. Plastics create an enormous volume of waste. In fact, in the U.S., plastics take up 25% of landfills by volume.
Producing PLA uses 65% less energy than producing conventional plastics. It also generates 68% fewer greenhouse gases. And, if incinerated, bioplastics don't emit toxic fumes like their oil-based counterparts. Like conventional plastic, it's not likely to break down in a landfill.
The bioplastics market is growing by 20-30% each year, as more brands turn to this eco-friendly alternative to plastic. Give us a call to learn how your company can leverage this top tier bioplastic.