For over 40 years, Spinlock, the Life Jacket Supplier of the Clipper 2023-24 Race has been designing and manufacturing personal protective gear for the marine sector and is known for products that perform in the toughest of marine environments. Spinlock kits out the crew on each of the eleven Clipper Race yachts with Deckvest VITO lifejackets, the latest Performance Safety Lines and personal AIS devices when they embark on the epic 40,000nm race.

What’s more, Spinlock is also a certified B Corp- a certification that signifies that a business is meeting high standards of verified performance, accountability, and transparency on factors from employee benefits and charitable giving to supply chain practices and input materials. As of 2023, only 1300+ UK businesses have achieved a B Corp status.

We caught up with James Hall, Sales and Marketing Manager at Spinlock to learn more about the process and intention behind gaining a B Corp accreditation.

What motivated you to pursue a B Corp certification?

We've been successful for a long time but to continue to be successful in the modern world, we need to have a route to self-improvement. As a company, we like being challenged. We wanted to look at our business, and how we operate, and think about what we can do better and make improvements.

The B Corp status is so broad. It assesses every aspect of your organisation and it measures different parts such as your suppliers, your governance, how you work with your staff, how you behave, and the impact on the community you operate it. We felt that all of this aligned with Spinlock. It holds us accountable to make a positive impact from our day-to-day operations and that's what appealed to us.

Tell us about the process and how it has benefited your business?

To get certified, it's a two-year process of evaluation and benchmarking where you have to provide evidence of your processes. At the end of this, you get a score which means you are either accredited or not accredited.

If you gain the B Corp certification, you are assessed every two years and you must show change. You must show improvement. You're not allowed to stand still. Through our accreditation, we now have a series of benchmarks that we need to continue to meet and set standards that we would like to achieve. As a business, you get lots of support from B Corp. You get the opportunity to tap into their network, meet other businesses and understand how they are working to better themselves.

How is Spinlock intentionally making changes to contribute positively to the environment and its people?

As an organisation, we were very strong in aspects such as governance and staff. However, as a manufacturer of products, we had some room for improvement within our supply chain.

The assessment of our supply chain challenged us to understand how our suppliers operate. Now, when we start working with a new component supplier, we run an audit that sets out what we expect of them as an employer. We work with them so that they can demonstrate to us that they meet various criteria, in areas such as labour. It helps us understand the measures they’ve put in place to empower their workforce and their community, which is hugely important to us.

Another main aspect was assessing how our suppliers source raw materials for production. We want to know where the materials come from, what governance the supplier has put in place to ensure the traceability of these materials, and the efforts made to source these materials with less of an environmental impact.

Can you outline some details about how you're more sustainable in your production and supply chain?

Currently, 80% of our supply chain is based in the UK, but we do have around 20% of our components that come from around the world and that’s because those suppliers are the best in the world for a particular component.

It is important to us that we choose the right supplier. For example, the reason we go to the Philippines for our life jacket covers is because they are exceptionally good at producing the strong harness element of it.

But in some areas, we've been bringing more production back to the UK and the reasoning for that is to reduce our air miles. So, with our simple flotation products, the foam was earlier sent from the UK to the Philippines to be stamped out, and then it would be delivered back to us which is a long journey for a bulky material. But now, we are bringing two of those major processes in-house.

Can you tell us more about the sort of initiatives you do within your community?

We have a workforce of around 70 people and a majority of them are employed in the UK, locally in the Isle of Wight. They're involved in all aspects of the business, whether it be sales, marketing, design, or on the production floor.

As a company, we intentionally spend our budget in a way to support grassroots sailing and getting people out on the water. So, we don't throw much money into magazine advertising. We also encourage our staff to be involved in the community, not just in a charitable sense, but to get involved in sports activities or volunteer with schools, disadvantaged children, or adults.

We have an annual charitable fund where our employees have the opportunity to bid for money to be used for water activities or causes that they are passionate about.

I think the support, whether it be junior sailing, disability sailing or with an organisation is about getting people into water sports because that's the industry that we're in, and it is really important that we sustain the future of it.

From a sustainability angle, your products are extremely durable. They sustain 40,000nm of extreme weather conditions on the Clipper Race. Is that something you focus on for your R&D?

We pride ourselves on the long lifespan of our products. Over the years of constant research and development, we have learned how to use materials in the best possible way to ensure we make durable products. We take pride in the duration of performance that can be enjoyed by our products.

Do you have any sustainable waste management practices that you follow?

Yes, all our cardboard waste gets dealt with locally, which is an internally managed process where it is sent to be made into animal bedding. So we don't have any cardboard going into landfills.

We constantly review our packaging practices to ensure we choose practices that reduce our impact on the environment. We have reduced the use of plastic bags and consciously made the decision to use recycled and reusable content in our packaging to avoid contributing to unnecessary waste.

For large trade sales, we offer the products ‘free of packaging’ which massively reduces the need for encasing. Most of our products are made of recyclable components and moving forward, we aim to make fully recyclable products where possible. Additionally, we donate all unused or outdated devices like mobile phones, telephones and PCs to charity.

The Clipper Race is proud to partner with an organisation that is constantly raising its standards in sustainability and pioneering in research development. To find out more about Spinlock, its products and initiatives, visit the website here.