Ackermans and Sealand collaboration

Published: FY2023

A collaborative ecosystem creates bags from used Ackermans marketing material

Within the field of sustainability, the focus tends to be on the environmental and human impact of a business’s supply chain, in particular the product journey, from the materials used to produce it to the production process, storage, and transportation.

Yet, it is also important to look at all the physical elements of the business environment built around the products, such as marketing materials, which can be easy to overlook.

For a retailer such as Pepkor’s clothing retailer, Ackermans, this includes promotional materials made from paper and, more significantly, poly twill, a type of textile weave used to produce in-store marketing material that the customer would usually see behind the cash desk at till points and in the shop windows.

Produced by a key strategic partner, poly twill promotional materials tend to be installed twice a year – summer and winter – as part of the seasonal change of the look and feel of each store. In addition, materials are also produced when a new store opens or for specific promotions.

In the past, at the end of a specific season or promotion, these materials would be removed and discarded and, in most instances, end up going to a landfill.

Ackermans, having recognised the impact of this on the environment, had been looking for a recycling solution.

While the appetite for eliminating this type of waste is traditionally high, the biggest challenge has always been the reverse logistics of getting the materials out of the stores that are spread across the country and back to the producer’s premises.

For Ackermans, this is not an obstacle. Tapping into the muscle of the Pepkor Group, Pepkor Logistics has stepped in to transport the materials back once each store has taken them down and has prepared them for delivery to Sealand Gear, a lifestyle brand that is focused on responsibly made gear and apparel.

Sealand receives the materials at its main storage facility, where there is a specific Ackermans section. A dual process of upcycling and recycling commences. The chonk – plastic material in which the marketing material is placed – is stripped and sent to a Sealand recycling partner.

The remaining poly twill is upcycled as a raw material, given new life without being treated, and is produced into bags. This means that every bag Sealand produces is truly unique, incorporating the colours and design from the upcycled material.

Sealand employs a local team and takes pride in paying a living wage. A personal touch is added on each product, with a QR code that buyers of the bags can scan to find out who made that specific bag, for example, and even chat with them online.

Through this initiative, Ackermans was able to divert 140 kilograms of waste from landfills, enabling the production of 30 Slim Lava Laptop Bags. This resulted in a carbon emission saving of 30.1 kg CO2e and, albeit small, represents the birth of the perfect collaborative ecosystem that will continue to grow and have a positive, sustainable impact on the environment.