By association

Trade associations offer numerous benefits to members who are normally too engrossed in their work to be able to see the bigger picture. From dealing with government, understanding new law, tax, and regulations, to having the resources to have industry oversight and offer benefits such as training and advice, associations are the bedrock of business. And being in such a position, associations have the gravitas to be able to lobby on members behalf. With issues such as sustainability, lowering of emissions, rising bills, anything they can offer members is a boon.

Adam Bernstein reports.

Elena-Lai, ETSA secretary-general

The European Textile Service Association – ETSA

ETSA secretary-general, Elena Lai, says that the European Textile Service Association, a European Commission Climate Pact Ambassador, is a network where the largest industrial players in the textile services industry “come together to exchange best practices, discuss crucial policies and establish close synergies to work more effectively in both the textile and textile service sectors.” The association is located just a stone’s throw from both the European Parliament and the European Commission, as it considers the European Union to be the most relevant regulatory body for ETSA members. And as Lai says, the location was chosen because “ETSA works tirelessly to ensure the industry’s interests are protected and represented in these bodies.” She adds that “in times of great trouble such as these, with the ongoing energy crisis, the rising cost of living, the climate crisis and the ramifications of the Covid pandemic, the ETSA Secretariat has been gathering crucial data and collecting evidence-based information to share important sector concerns to target specific legislation.” By way of example, Lai says that recently, an important joint action with ETSA national associations led to “a concrete shift in the typology of measures the sector has been advocating” so as to get “a fairer level playing field and to tackle some of the most complex issues the industry expects during the current digital/green transition.” Through its role as a European Commission Climate Pact Ambassador, Lai says that ETSA is “positioned to communicate our concerns to the commission and can be really proactive and call on our members, both in their companies and on the individual level, to do more to become more sustainable.” She thinks that sharing information about corporate social responsibilities strategy while also monitoring and assessing recent science-based targets on microplastics, PFAS and more is a role well undertaken by ETSA’s Standards Working Groups and its Environment Working Group. In describing these groups Lai says that they are comprised of “delegated technical experts from ETSA members who come together and try to hash out common industry-wide truths, collaborations and goals when it comes to subjects like sustainability, water usage, standards, communications, national-level issues, PPE and so on.” Ultimately Lai sees the future presenting a number of challenges to the sector. She says that “as an industry we must do our part to reach the legally binding emissions reductions pledge outlined in the European Climate Pact, while also combatting the rise in energy costs and hard-line issues of salience such as microplastics, PFAS, and chemicals.” For Lai, there are no easy solutions, “but through increased cooperation with ETSA members, the textile industry can be sure it is getting a stellar representation on the European stage.”

The Worshipful Company of Launderers

Sarah Lancaster is the current Master of the Worshipful Company of Launderers, and she explains that the company is not a trade association as such, noting that is it “a City of London livery company that was founded by members of the trade in the early 1960s to help promote the craft.”

She details that the company exists “to represent excellence within the textile care industry while also placing great emphasis on the philanthropic contribution we make to the wider community in the finest traditions of London’s livery companies.” Lancaster tells how education has always been an integral part of the livery movement and that this is reflected within the Worshipful Company of Launderers. She says that “a committee dedicated to education has historically, and continually, supported industry training courses through course completion grants to delegates.”

In addition to this, she highlights the Launderers’ Travelling Scholarship scheme, which helps “up and coming members of our industry to visit industry locations within Europe to develop their industry knowledge and skills base.” But looking to the future, Lancaster says that “the livery is seeking to introduce new training and lecture initiatives to support the exchange of knowledge within our industry.” It’s also intending to “maintain our commitment to supporting all new initiatives within our industry and the investment in those who work within it.” From her perspective, an active membership is crucial to the continuance of the company and “we are always seeking to engage, through education, charity, and fellowship.”

One of the major objects of a livery company is benevolence. On this, Lancaster notes that in the year to the end of March 2021, “the Worshipful Company of Launderers Benevolent Fund – an authorised charity – contributed over £35,000 to various causes.” This, she says, included many donations to be used within the London Borough of Southwark, the City and individuals who have worked within the laundry industry requiring support, as well as grants by the Education Fund.

As Lancaster tells, “membership of the Worshipful Company of Launderers can be a very rewarding, enjoyable and career enhancing experience.” She adds that “it’s a rare opportunity to step outside the daily routine of corporate life and meet professionally and socially with industry peers in a unique environment.” In finishing, Lancaster says, “where else would you have the opportunity to take an active part in the colourful pageantry and ancient customs of the City of London that only a livery company can offer?”

Sarah Lancaster, Master of the Worshipful Company of Launderers

Ken Cupitt

The Guild of Cleaners and Launderers

Ken Cupitt, chairman of Council and Examination Board, points out that the Guild of Cleaners and Launderers is not an employer’s trade association, but instead, a “professional qualifying body of individuals with an aim to promote skill and competence within the laundry and drycleaning industry.”

Cupitt is bothered that “the sector suffers from an attitude of ‘being of an irrelevance’ held by those advising the government. Until we manage to change this people will not realise that …we are the ultimate recycling experts, the best providers of textile hygiene, and employers of a sizable portion of the working population.”

He comments that the TSA (Textile Services Association) is the employers trade association for the commercial laundry sector “but sadly there is no longer a similar body looking after drycleaners both retail and industrial… it is a long way outside of the Guild’s terms of reference.”

Guild members receive monthly bulletins with technical information and features – Amber Alerts – with information on garments likely to give problems, or with care labels that are inaccurate. And with an eye to sustainability Cupitt says that since COP26 in September 2021 members have had a series of reports on work that is going on to reduce the emissions CO2 content.

Cupitt says that the Guild likes to give back to society. He talks about a project that started 25 years ago when it started a liaison with English and Welsh Prison service laundries and introduced standards for operation procedures and got prison laundry officers qualified to train inmates in skills required in a commercial laundry. Equally important was an arrangement with the TSA that employers would give these inmates at least a job interview upon release. He says that “what is not widely known is the wide range of laundry equipment that is available in a prison laundry.”

The Guild has liaisons with other organisations for sharing knowledge and expertise. It also liaises with trading standards over garments that may have been incorrectly labelled, where a garment has failed because the manufacturer didn’t test the fabric according to British Standards, or sometimes, incorrectly cleaned.

But as Cupitt notes, “if a drycleaner is a member of the Guild of Cleaners and Launderers they are bound by a written code of ethics and conduct and will have taken extensive training courses and received technical qualifications” and so should be highly competent. Backed up with an annual membership certificate for display purposes, monthly technical updates on the latest information to keep knowledge up to date, technical reference books – there are many benefits to being a member of the Guild.

Textile Services Association

David Stevens, chief executive officer of the Textile Services Association, says that “the economic impact of the pandemic has been dramatic on virtually all the markets our sector supports, particularly hospitality. With the added uncertainty Brexit, the war in Ukraine and now energy has created, the speed of recovery is uncertain, therefore, it’s essential we stand together as an industry to help support each other.”

He says that the TSA’s attention in 2023 will be on projects including the Infinite Textiles™ recycling accreditation scheme, new market opportunities within the care home sector, and strengthening industry partnerships. He says that the TSA will also “continue to develop our comprehensive training programme and host more networking events. We will also work on your behalf to ensure we have a central voice with other trade bodies and government.”

Since the pandemic the TSA has engaged with the membership in different ways and will continue to host both live events as well as online. Stevens says that the TSA’s conferences and congress programmes “have developed a reputation and we’re keeping them in the diary.” He mentions key dates for 2023 – the National Congress on 9 February, the Spring Conference, 3-4 May, and the Autumn Conference, 18-19 October. On top of that are a number of ad-hoc events as well as a multitude of training courses during the year that cover – for example, PPE workwear repair, health and safety, laundry technology, boiler management and mental health.

Beyond training, Stevens says that the TSA lobbies on behalf of the sector. “Our new approach in 2022 of building political alliances and partnerships with the likes of UKHospitality, NHSi, British Cleaning Council (BCC) and UK Housekeepers Association (UKHA) has proved to be a much more effective way of improving the power of our lobbying messages. We intend to strengthen these relationships further in 2023.” Monitoring and developing quality and operational standards are part of the TSAs remit and here Stevens says that “we table our interests through the BSI and European colleagues to ensure that all applicable standards remain relevant and practical for our use.”

Lastly, Stevens mentions the Knowledge Networks – various steering groups and project groups which are an “agent for change in the industry which we attain through projects, programmes, research, training, networking and by producing codes of practice and guidance documents.”

As Stevens says, “the steering groups drive the overall workstreams and concentrate on five specific areas from health and safety and training and education. The project groups do the work; commissioned by the TSA they are disbanded once the main output of the project is achieved.” Members are invited to participate in or observe any of these groups.

David Stevens, CEO of TSA

Dave Grimshaw, national chair of the Society of Hospital Linens and Laundry Managers

Society of Hospital Linen Service and Laundry Managers

Dave Grimshaw, national chair of the Society of Hospital Linen Service and Laundry Managers, says that the society has “a very broad membership” from all parts of the industry from suppliers to launderers, , to government departments and “all are asking the society for help in enabling them to undertake their roles in a compliant and efficient manner.”

Grimshaw has seen “the rules of engagement” change over 50 years. Then “there were rules, specifications, and mechanisms in place for ensuring products and services supplied to the end user met national standards.” He continues: “The ensuing trading style approach to conducting business, fostered by the need for entrepreneurialism to drive prices down, yet maintain an adequate service, has arguably worked well for several decades. However, with all such freedom, issues arise which government take a view on and now require new controls.”

As for the industry, Grimshaw says that everybody is now reacting rapidly to a new world, and “we are no exception hence our quest to broaden the spectrum of support and advice we provide.”

And the need for advice has never been so great says Grimshaw: “In recent times our nation has become reliant upon others abroad to manufacture and supply our products. Technology has advanced dramatically and now allows our laundries, and any residual manufacturing in the UK, to operate very efficiently.”

He says that firms want to protect the environment and improve working conditions while saving energy.

And then there’s the impact of Brexit which Grimshaw says has caused “confusion and essentially split the nation in half… to say ‘Brexit is done’ is a myth when it comes to dealing with daily practicalities.” That said, he believes that the industry continues to have “sound commercial relationships with many European companies and these relationships should continue to be encouraged alongside the broader horizon of friendships globally.”

It helps, then, that as Grimshaw says, “our associations, societies and technical supporters have engaged highly qualified people and will continue to bring in the necessary expertise to be able to offer support to our members.” Beyond that, a key part of the support the society can provide is in the improvement of compliance with the multitude of rules the sector is subject to. This is why he says that “in terms of the support we give, we see an ever-increasing need for us to work more closely with authorities to understand the nuances of what modern legislation means… there is much ambiguity.”

Ultimately, he sees the sharing of knowledge between associations and societies, particularly on matters corporate, as “an important steppingstone in helping to encourage global compliance on all issues of importance.” To do this, the society plans to develop closer working relationships with associations and societies that indicate a willingness to participate.

National Association of the Launderette Industry (NALI)

Mary Simons, vice-chair of the National Association of the Launderette Industry (NALI) says that her association “represents not only owners and operators of high street launderettes, but also any individual, company or organisation offering self-service laundry or drycleaning facilities to the public.”

She says that NALI “is recognised by, and maintains contact with, government departments, local authorities and the Health and Safety Executive and monitors and takes appropriate action in response to legislation and other issues affecting launderette operations.” Controlled by an elected all-volunteer Council of Management, Simons says that it’s comprised of “experienced launderette owners and representatives of the industry’s principal supplier companies.”

NALI maintains a Code of Practice where members “agree to honour the spirit and provision of the code and undertake to observe” basic principles to maintain the highest possible standards; train staff; display prices charged; investigate any complaints; refund coins inserted into the equipment lost due to machine failure; and pay fair compensation for loss or damage. Simons says that “it pays to belong to a professional trade organisation for the access it provides to advise whenever needed.” And she outlines the benefits of being a member – the quarterly journal – Launderette and Cleaning World; health and safety manuals and guidance; a window sticker to denote membership and adherence to a nationally recognised Code of Practice; representation to numerous governmental bodies and the utilities; an independent conciliation advisory service to resolve disputes; a ‘fighting fund’ to provide financial backing to meet the costs of legally challenging damaging or unworkable legislation; an online forum; and access to a telephone helpline for legal advice.

Simons also says that NALI is an “active supporter of trade shows for the industry and promotes it at independent company-sponsored events. NALI also provides speakers for a wide variety of seminar events, including those held for environmental health officers.” Membership costs just £75 per year plus £10 for each additional location if there is more than one shop.

From a personal perspective Simons explains that her business has belonged to NALI and other bodies since 1982 and “found it invaluable to our business.” She says that AGS is now a supplier member and still on the Council of Management supporting the industry.

And to drive home the value of NALI membership, she says that “during times like these we all need to stick together and stand strong in the face of adversity. We fear that it will get worse before it gets better and to that end would advise anyone that runs a launderette to join NALI as the benefits outweigh any negatives.

Andreas Schumacher, DTV


According to Andreas Schumacher, managing director, DTV the German Textile Cleaning Association (Deutscher Textilreinigungs-Verband – DTV), an employers’ and trade association representing more than 700 companies of all sizes and types, high energy prices and the circular economy are the focus of its activity at present.

Says Schumacher, “as an association we exert targeted and effective influence. Our aim is to strengthen the market and economic presence of the textile services sector as a whole and to represent the interests of the industry on a professional, competition law, trade policy and political level.”

He adds that “we inform our members about current and industry-relevant changes in legislation and organise training courses and seminars. The association also serves as an exchange platform for members and suppliers, in which the future of the industry can be actively shaped.”

In 2022, Schumacher says that the textile cleaning industry was primarily concerned about the cost increases for energy as it’s become many times more expensive in recent weeks. And that comes hot on the heels of a post-pandemic recovery. It’s not surprising that Schumacher says that the association is “lobbying for price caps and direct support of heavily affected companies. We do so on the national level as well as on the European level under the umbrella of ETSA.” But beyond energy Schumacher says that the topics of sustainability, the circular economy, and related topics such as repair, recycling or life cycle extension are gaining in importance. Schumacher thinks that an effective EU strategy for sustainable textiles requires “consideration of the entire value chain. After all, the value chain in production is just as important for the sustainability of the end-product as is the consumption of raw materials and the usage cycle of the textiles.”

DTV, with ETSA, is coordinating the work of standardisation experts. DTV has since been a member of the Small Business Standards organisation, which Schumacher says was appointed by the EU Commission to represent the voice of small and medium-sized companies on standardisation issues. Four standardisation experts nominated by DTV for personal protective equipment, medical devices, coated textiles, and smart textiles are funded as part of this programme.

Another major concern of the industry, says Schumacher, is the shortage of skilled workers. “The situation has worsened since the start of the pandemic. One solution was the September 2021 launch of an e-learning platform, E-Washboard, developed together with industry associations from Belgium, Sweden, Czech Republic and ETSA to offer an entrance-level qualification.” Schumacher says there are plans to further build on the platform and get other countries involved in order to offer more content and languages

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