SUSTAINABILITY

TURNING A CRISIS ON ITS HEAD

The article highlights how Swedish company Polygiene transformed the pandemic-driven challenges into unique opportunities while also elaborating about its vision for the future

Ulrika Björk, CEO, Polygiene

There’s no question that 2020 has been an incredibly difficult year for millions of people around the world. Industries and businesses have been hit hard with the retail, food and beverage, travel, tourism and hospitality sectors being the worst affected. Thousands of businesses have been shuttered, some permanently. It has been a rough time for the employed. Many people have seen their incomes cut and unemployment has increased across the world. On a personal level, the pandemic has forced us to adapt to new realities. We have learnt to juggle careers, parenting and social interactions in a new paradigm. But it has not been all gloom and doom.

The crisis has also presented opportunities for those who have been quick to adapt and innovate. Polygiene is one such company. Sweden-based Polygiene is a market-leading ingredient brand for ‘Stays Fresh’ solutions. In partnership with clothing, footwear and gear brands, they deliver a product that is hygienic, safe to use, prolongs product life, and contributes to a more sustainable lifestyle as well as a more profitable business for their partners.

The Relief Angel

As the pandemic increased its deadly chokehold over the world in early 2020, people became increasingly aware about personal hygiene. The need for products that protected and promoted hygiene rose. One such category that witnessed a soaring of demand was hand-sanitizers; manufacturers and retailers were forced to ration supplies as people began stockpiling them. Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton or LVMH as they are commonly known is a French company behind luxury brands like Louis Vuitton, Givenchy and Dior. They are known for producing top-shelf luxury perfumes. LVMH was among the first companies to respond to the hand-sanitizer shortage by diverting their resources to produce disinfectant gel instead of perfumes.

The demand for personal protection equipment for healthcare professionals went up too. Luxury fashion houses like Prada, Christian Siriano and Brandon Maxwell switched from creating haute couture to producing protective gear for hospital personnel. The demand for face masks also went through the roof. As the pandemic gripped the world, Polygiene was approached by face mask manufacturers from several Asian countries who were interested in producing Polygiene-treated face masks. Polygiene was also quick to respond to the battle against the virus with rapid innovation. Within weeks of the virus spreading around the world, it launched ‘Polygiene ViralOff’ on April 7, 2020.

Polygiene ViralOff is a technology for treatment of materials and products that reduces tested viruses by +99% in as low as two hours*. Polygiene ViralOff can be used in almost any product including personal protection equipment and scrubs for healthcare workers, doctors, nurses and first responders. It can be used on any item where antiviral functionality is needed – face masks, gloves, bed sheets, even furniture and handheld devices.

Concern for Sustainability

While headlines have painted grim pictures about the effects of the pandemic on personal lives and businesses, there are some positive stories that have emerged about its indirect impact on the environment. With people staying at home, there have been some obvious positive changes in the environment. People have first-hand seen clear blue skies, cleaner rivers and lakes, and a significant reduction in air and noise pollution. Satellite imagery has shown a sharp fall in the levels of pollution all over the world since travel restrictions began and industrial activities slowed down. This has brought home the truth that it is human activity that threatens and damages the environment.

We have found that people have become more concerned, not less, about addressing environmental challenges. And they have become more committed to changing their own behaviour to live a sustainable lifestyle. A global survey** by management consultancy firm Accenture has found that 61% of consumers have reported making more environmentally friendly, sustainable, or ethical purchases since the start of the pandemic. Accenture added that 9 out of 10 of that percentage said they were likely to continue doing so. This ethical and environmental consumer revolution is here to stay. This is good news for a company like Polygiene.

In a world where textile and energy waste are an increasing drain on our planet and resources, Polygiene is poised to make amends for the better. Polygiene-treated products like apparel, footwear and gear stay fresh longer. Because they don’t have to be washed as often as regular products, they last longer and can reduce the CO2 footprint. One thing we have learned over the years is that you can’t have a trade-off between business success and sustainability. It is possible to make them work together. And individual actions, no matter how small they are, can have a meaningful long-term impact. Polygiene’s vision is to bring about and support fundamental habit and lifestyle changes in consumers by offering eco-friendlier options. This ‘clean and green’ approach to consumption is their guiding star and they firmly believe it will be beneficial to the environment and the planet in the long run.

Vision for Climate-Smart Consumption

• Garments can be used several times before they require washing and can be washed at lower temperatures, saving water, detergent and energy.

• Without excessive washing and bacterial growth, the fibres do not degrade as quickly and so products last longer. This durable treatment lasts the lifetime of the garment.

• Garments are not discarded prematurely due to odour.

• Polygiene-treated products can be used again and again. And at the end of their life, they can be recycled.

Polygiene added another string to their bow to strengthen their offering. Beyond personal hygiene, the ongoing fight against the virus has also put the spotlight on another important aspect – the hygiene of frequently touched surfaces. The emphasis on this will go up in the days to come and according to a recent study*** the demand for antimicrobial coatings will triple in the coming five years. To extend their offering beyond protection and hygiene of soft surfaces, Polygiene initiated talks with Addmaster and acquired the company in January 2021. Addmaster is a specialist in antimicrobial technology and hard surfaces, and Polygiene has been working closely with them for over a decade. Addmaster has a range of applications for consumer products, public spaces as well as for hospital environments. This acquisition makes perfect business sense, given the synergies that exist between Polygiene and Addmaster. It is a winning formula that will enable Polygiene to now provide protection for both hard and soft surfaces to customers in India.

Commitment to India

Polygiene has commercial and technical operations in India. The expertise, quality and opportunity in the India market are great and they look forward to growing partnerships here. They have also built a close association with Ezma, Carbonado, JCT, Nahar, Tyka Sports and other corporate mills to further their presence and ease of working. Recently, the company has partnered with the iconic Royal Enfield brand for their apparel range. On the road, Royal Enfield riders can now stay fresh, travel light, and wash less thanks to Polygiene-treated apparel and footwear. Polygiene is here to stay and will continue bring new technologies into the country when they develop. And add and support resources to grow their business in India.

Vishal Bhandari, Technical and Commercial Director for India and South Asia, adds that the landscape of antimicrobial performance with textiles and hard surfaces is growing tremendously, not only due to the current pandemic but on the growing focus of keeping gear and apparel in active use longer. “This is an area that has grown tremendously, and we look forward to supporting our partners even more as we continue developing and evolving together,” he says.

Reimagining the Post-Pandemic Scenario

With vaccinations on pace around the world, things should stabilize soon and return back to some semblance of pre-pandemic normalcy. Business leaders everywhere are now strategizing about how to move forward. Organisations that have been able to respond quickly with resilience and creativity have not just survived, they have thrived. It would appear that the pandemic has almost acted as a catalyst, forcing them to reinvent and reshape how they operate. If only they can find ways to hardwire this new behaviour into their organisations, they would continue to become stronger and grow in the coming years. So, will this then become the next normal for successful companies? Only time will tell.

Ulrika Björk, CEO at Polygiene, shares, “At Polygiene we are committed to building the best performing Stays Fresh technology on the market. With this, we are constantly evolving and developing better ways to support our industry and partners in providing a positive and sustainable option in the textile industry and driving a real change in how we as end-consumers, look at our gear and apparel. We have initiated educational programs, co-branded content and retail staff initiatives, among other initiatives, to help raise awareness of the benefits by simply washing less.”

About Polygiene

As the world leader in Stays Fresh technologies, Polygiene wants to change the way products are viewed – from fast consumables to durables. They treat clothes, accessories, home products and textiles to help people stay fresh, wash less and let clothes and products live longer. Over 200 global premium brands have chosen to use the Polygiene brand with their products. With the wholly-owned subsidiary Addmaster Holdings Limited, they now have the possibility to offer solutions for both soft and hard surfaces. Polygiene is listed on Nasdaq First North Growth Market in Stockholm, Sweden.                                                        

* Tested on certain materials against ISO18184:2019 (SARS-CoV-2), ATCC VR-1679 (H3N2). Polygiene ViralOff is not intended to prevent disease. It is used for protection of the treated product.

https://www.accenture.com/_acnmedia/PDF-130/Accenture-Retail-Research-POV-Wave-Seven.pdf

Report ‘Antimicrobial Coatings Market’, October 2020.

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