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 located in New Germany, one of Durban’s oldest and industrial areas, is also only the fourth company to obtain a rating for an existing industrial building in South Africa. Africa. Other notable South African 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 peoples’ working environments – all factors that were not priorities, in a different era, when the factory was initially built by the then Frame Textiles in 1967.

Equator – the Belt Factory TM, 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 Belt Factory TM, 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. The Green Star certification is an important and credible marker of our progress and has taken a great deal of effort, says Buhr.  “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. So we use those as our guiding lights in terms of decisions and choices we make and innovations we implement.”

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, has positioned itself as “a place of craft and a place of science” and 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. 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,” he notes. 

Buhr adds that, Equator – the Belt Factory TM is also committed to ensuring that sustainability claims are backed by science. As such the company worked with sustainability and green building advisors Ecolution Consulting, in order to certify the building and ensure a credible and comprehensive sustainability journey. 

Having achieved a certification for the factory, the focus will now shift to more responsible raw material sourcing, packaging and lower impact logistics. “Companies can easily fall into the trap of making bold and misleading sustainability claims. But we want to be clear that we do have an impact and that we still have far to go. We are, however, set on making every decision with sustainability in mind and communicating that transparently. We are excited to announce our progress with regards to our green building certification,” he concludes. 

*Based on 2019 production average