Father and daughter team tackle green agenda

A father and daughter team are transforming their Barnsley-based clothing business into an eco-friendly outfit for future generations.

Carl Firth, co-director of school uniform and workwear specialists Vortex Ltd, has appointed University of Leeds graduate Anna to a newly-created post of corporate sustainability manager.

In this post, she takes the lead on the company’s drive to reduce carbon emissions through their net zero strategy, and improve environmental, social and governance practices through their ESG strategy.

Carl said: “We all know we need to get on with tackling the impact our businesses have on the environment; and when you have a daughter at home reminding you about what needs to be done, it really gets you thinking about sustainability at work. It’s the next generation that all this really matters to, and I think it’s key to involve them in helping us to fix the problem. It’s great to have Anna on board to drive this agenda forward.”

Carl co-founded specialist embroidery and printing company Vortex with life-long friend Liam Stewart in 1984 and the enterprise has always been supported by their families, with wives, brothers, sons and nieces all having worked there.

The company launched its green initiative following participation in Net Zero Barnsley, an accelerator run by The Business Village, dedicated to helping businesses meet sustainability targets.

All UK businesses need to work towards the Government’s legal requirement to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2050, with Barnsley borough setting its own target to achieve this by 2045.

Anna, who has gained three years’ experience working in environmental consultancies since graduating with a degree in ecology and environmental biology, is determined that Vortex will hit net zero well before national deadlines.

Anna, aged 24, said: “We’ve set ambitious but realistic targets for Vortex. There is no time to waste. I couldn’t resist the opportunity to help Dad’s business become sustainable and I see this very much as a project which needs swift and effective action.”

Anna is investigating more sustainable packaging options, electric vehicles and better waste management. She is also ensuring that all their suppliers, such as delivery partners, are committed to minimising their carbon emissions too. With the help of Net Zero Barnsley, Vortex hope to secure a grant to invest in more efficient machinery and smart lighting.

Anna is involving all staff at the company’s Grange Lane factory in developing new energy efficient workplace practices.

She said: “Everyone seems to be positive about this. We already sell school uniforms made from recycled plastic bottles but want to source more sustainable materials so we can be a pioneer for change in the textile industry. We’ll be launching a new range of more environmentally-friendly workwear in the new year so customers wanting to reduce their own carbon footprint can confidently buy from us and know they are purchasing responsibly.”

Net Zero Barnsley business development manager Kevin Steel: “Vortex was the first company to enquire about joining Net Zero Barnsley and It’s great to see Anna now bringing her passion and experience to the business. We’re proud that a Barnsley company is leading the way to net zero in the uniform and workwear sector.”

Carl said: “Joining Net Zero Barnsley helped us stop just thinking about it and do something. It has helped us sort out the nuts of bolts of our carbon calculation, measure progress and communicate what we’re doing to suppliers and customers.”

Vortex supplies branded uniform to 26 Barnsley area schools and produces Barnsley Youth Choir’s hoodies and T-shirts for tours. It also supplies workwear and promotional items to a wide range of companies.
Net Zero Barnsley is a free accelerator, which helps businesses to start on action plans to work towards net zero. It has now completed its first intensive programme of support with 38 companies. More programmes are to follow in the new year.

Funding for the Net Zero Barnsley accelerator came from the UK government through the UK Community Renewal Fund, South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority and Barnsley Metropolitan Council.