The Textile Services Association’s (TSA) 2022 Spring Conference, got under way at the Marriott Forest of Arden Hotel in Birmingham on 5 May, with sprint legend Linford Christie OBE lining up on the starting grid as a key speaker.

It was the first Spring Conference after two years of pandemic and a welcome opportunity for TSA members to meet face to face. The TSA team’s intention was to entertain and enlighten so delegates could go back to work feeling refreshed and ready for the challenges ahead. Neither TSA chairman Charlie Betteridge ( educates-9679853/) nor CEO David Stevens pulled any punches as they predicted that things will be not be easy going forward.

Stevens uttered more than a few words of caution. “What I can tell you, because we keep hearing it from you, is that we are not out of the woods yet. In fact, with two years of Covid and now the energy crisis, we cannot even find the path to get out. The industry is in unprecedented crisis and it ain’t over yet.” However, there were and are positives to celebrate, he said.

On the upside, membership is rising and the TSA board has agreed to continue with the discount for membership fees at pre-pandemic rates which, he said, “was based on the ongoing reality that we are not bouncing back as we had hoped”. He added: “We are only able to do this, and still trade profitably because of the growth in membership and the ongoing support of our supply partners.”

In order to support this process further, Stevens announced a new initiative, the TSA Roadshow, which will take to the nation’s highways and byways this summer in order to encourage more laundries to get together and share experiences.

“The key here is to get our supply partners to help us identify and invite non-members to come and have a drink and a chat. So far we have Edinburgh, Glasgow and London planned, with more dates and venues around the country to be announced, depending on demand.”

Announcing the appointment of Emily MacDonald to the role of events and admin co-ordinator, Stevens explained that more members means more work and he acknowledged the hard work of TSA staffers Emma Andersson and Shyju Skariah in supporting members through the pandemic and beyond.

“What I can assure you, is that the team gets it. Our only purpose is to support you as industry and we are still acutely aware that we need to continue this journey throughout next year,” said Stevens. Programmes, topics and initiatives the association is working on include:


The Culture Study is complete and a lot has been learned about process and how to do it better. Meanwhile, a People Steering Group has been set up which feeds into the Knowledge Network. Let’s look at some achievements Stevens highlighted.

Health and safety

TSA has completed its fifth year of data gathering. According to Stevens: “It is a great example of how, from a slow beginning we can build momentum and really deliver on such a key topic.”


The UK Hospitality Round Table showed that hospitality operators now have a genuine concern that hospitality may outgrow laundry capacity. “This may create an opportunity to change the model. We have real homework to do here and before the next Round Table we will be consulting with the CMA,” said Stevens.

Healthcare market

Stevens said: “For the past three years I have been talking about care homes and adult social care. It is a big market but a tough one to penetrate. We have now commenced the UK’s largest survey of management and worker attitudes to infection control in regard to laundry.”


“It is the same old story here. We keep sending letters to Government representatives and they keep ignoring them. The supply chain sector collectively needs to improve its game here. We did get essential worker status but that was only for healthcare workers. It seems if the Government needs you, you may get support; otherwise it is one market for the rest of us.”


Stevens pointed to a success in preventing the passing of new legislation pertaining to mats, saying: “If that new building standard had been approved it would have wiped out the entire floor protection industry and I am proud that it was the TSA that spotted it.”

Domestic v industrial

“Another exciting one,” said Stevens. “Following the TSA/De Montfort University project to improve the testing around wash procedures, we are now using the revised protocols to test domestic washing machines against industrial ones and so far have had total failures on some domestic machines. There will be a lot of lobbying opportunities when we have the research published.”


“We have never done as much as we have now. More than 200 people have benefited from the courses held over the past 12 months, including, among others, highly laundry specific courses on workwear technology and PPE training.”


Sustainability continues to be a big one, said Strevens, and the circular economy, of which the laundry industry has long been a star performer, and innovator, is very much a part of the TSA’s ongoing strategy.

Knowledge Networks update

Shyju Skariah, director of programmes and projects for the TSA, spoke about key focus areas for the association that he oversees. “Data is important,” he stressed: “The first step to treasuring something is to measure it. What we need across these project categories is data. Led by data, we can address things that are important to you.”

“This is a dynamic area and busier than the beginning of the year,” said Skariah as he outlined the current TSA projects and related workstream. The five key areas for the TSA’ projects portfolio are represented by Steering Groups. These groups achieve the desired results by initiating specific projects to address a need. However, there are also these stand-alone projects that may not fit into any of the key areas per se. They include:

  • Value of linen – how can we make the most of its life cycle. How can we fill the gaps?
  • Care homes – how are they managing laundry? “It is a great marketplace possibly bigger than NHS.

"Rather than an extensive projects update, we think it would be useful for us today to hear from people who are leading and steering these areas.”

Highlighted projects

“None of the work we do is possible without the more than 100 members contributing and making a difference to this workstream," said Skariah. "Now, we have been going on about this for a long time and we will have some amazing results we can use now and in the future results we can use now and in the future and it is the laundries recycling scheme.

"This has received the most engagement across our market and outside with hotels. Our aim is to develop and maintain a scheme that is inclusive while getting high-quality results. Our key criteria for our recycling scheme is to enable fibre to fibre technologies, not scrapping so a sheet becomes a sheet or another textile product which can be further recycled…." At this moment we are developing an accreditation standard and subsequently offer audits to ensure that the scheme is functioning as it is designed to. We have developed a scheme that can enable our industry to achieve just that. 

"Anyone involved with laundering wouldn't be strangers to the importance to British and International standards as most products and services are driven by standards."

Technical Standards Steering Group

"This is a resource-intensive and expert area. But, we need to be on top of keeping all the standards relevant that directly or indirectly impact laundry operations. With all of the work we do, whether it is engineering, standards, health and safety or sustainability, people are at the centre of it. The ultimate aim of TSA’s knowledge networks is to mange and steward the laundry industry’s knowledge assets. How do we disseminate these knowledge assets to the next generation of launderers? Training is then central to this aim. Working with our members’ internal training objectives, we put together our annual training portfolio to fill those gaps at an industrial level. We have had amazing feedback that we are delivering it well. We are now adding newer training and need to work together to overcome challenges. PPE training is a complicated process and we need input on that to develop for the future," reported Skariah.

Health and safety

Gary Youngson of Elis spoke about the importance of the TSA’s work on Health and Safety, saying: “We all need a safer and better place to work. We are making the best progress. Initially people were reluctant to share experiences. We heard from Charlie Betteridge (as he opened the conference) that everybody is in same boat, and we have similar machines and processes. We must learn lessons from one another to make a big difference in the workplace. Now we have an honest bunch of peoples sharing knowledge which means we can help avoid accidents and illnesses in the industry.

“This work should not be underestimated. We have worked hard on templates, recording accidents comparable to other industries comparing now with other businesses in our industry instead of manufacturing, for example.”

Skariah explained: “In 2021 incidents were led by slips, trips and falls followed closely by manual handling injuries – life changing situations for people in factories. We use this data and target specialists such as Christian Harrison so you can take away this knowledge and introduce it into your businesses. It helps us tailor specific publications, creating them and putting them on the TSA website to enable members to make workplaces safer. We have designed that material and it is there for you to use.

“At the last meeting we had a representative from HSE. It is important that we continue to do this and have a HSE and to share our knowledge of the laundry industry and how it works. They will inspect then work with us and we can have sensible answers to our problems."

The subject of delivery drivers' safety was raised and the question was posed whether TSA could work with healthcare and hospitality on this. “Absolutely,” said Skariah. "We deliver into thousands of premises every day that we have no control over. We need to engage with other industries to ensure safe delivery for drivers; for example, no steep ramps, or spiral staircases to negotiate."

First apprentice completes her journey

“One of the biggest training projects the TSA has taken on is its apprenticeship scheme which is now in place across the whole journey,” said Skariah. There are 40 active apprentices in the scheme and 40 more in the process of being accepted.

Krzystofa Gfrabowska. a Johnsons Service Group apprentice, is the first to go through the whole process. Rebecca Morgan of JSG Hotels division said: "The apprenticeship scheme for our industry is something we can use to promote it. That apprentice will be there for that time… and will have developed. Multi skilled employees who want to progress are valuable. We are so proud of Kryzstofa who started as a shift manager.”

Employers need to know that the scheme is suitable for all employees of all shapes and sizes and there is no age restriction. Anyone can join. Twenty per cent of time is off the job – but not off the laundry. There will be mentoring, job shadowing, packing instead of feeding sheets, say. It equates to six hours a week. It is not unproductive time," said Morgan.

Putting people first

TSA’s Emma Andersson presented on her project, the People Steering Group. "We have recently carried out a culture study to see how our industry compares to others. We had a great number of people completing the survey with over 500 completions…And from those we also randomly selected five lucky winners who have all been given a £50 voucher as a thank you for participating."

Andersson reported that more than 80% of industry values are perceived as "healthy". "Overall, the results of the survey were very positive, and we came out with a really good score. One of the results from the survey showed that over 80% of values selected were healthy which indicates that we have a happy work culture overall within our industry, which is great.

“Also, Brands with Values, with which we conducted the study has completed a similar survey in partnership with CBI members who represent many of the UK PLCs so this has given us a good comparison to see how we measure up to them…and overall, we are healthier.

“The study showed that Community is the most important value to employees within our industry. This is lovely as it is the safeguarding and improvement of the welfare of people. This is something I have really noticed since I have joined the industry how down to earth and kind everyone is…

“Other words which also stood out were Honesty, Friendly, Loyal, Respectful and Polite.

“This can help guide us what things employees like to see within their workplace. Overall, the top three values selected across different job roles were very similar which shows employees across your companies regardless of their job title think the same values are important.”

Unhealthy values

Andersson said the survey showed the top unhealthy values facing the industry were demanding and long hours, which did not come as big surprise, and were more common for supervisors, production managers and driver/engineers.

“This may highlight the need to focus on the employees in these jobsto ensure they are looked after and is a focus area for the People Steering Group. These were also highlighted by the UK PLCs in their study. However, we only had two unhealthy words in the top 10 compared to UK PLCs which had four.”


“Do employees within our industry feel welcomed, accepted and part of their organisation? Are their personal values matched to the workplace values.? These values are why we get out of bed in the morning, and the question here is are they met at work? On this score, we have a slightly lower sense of belonging when compared to the UK PLCs overall with a 61% score.

“However, this is still defined as a good sense of belonging but definitely something we can improve on.”

Recruitment webinars

“We have also had multiple webinars with TotalJobs to look at the current recruitment issues but more importantly how you can ensure to be attractive on the job market to potential employees. This is an area we will keep an eye on and see if there are other things we can do at the TSA to help showcase why people should come and work in our industry. The positive results from the culture study shown previously could be a good marketing tool for us all to use.”

People Steering Group

“We had our first meeting last month and discussed the data collection we as the TSA should be doing following the culture study. Similar to the work the H&S group has done it will help pinpoint which areas we should be focusing on. Without the data we can only make assumptions, whereas with the data it can help guide us in the right direction. We would like to continue with some sort of culture study or engagement study and we will work with the Steering Group to understand which platform would be the best as it may be that it needs to be multi-lingual and a little simpler to complete.”

Mental health

“One of the other topics highlighted was mental health and this is an area the group is going to carry on developing to ensure we are providing guidance and support for the membership.

“We will be running some courses either online or in-person depending on preference.

“The plan is to start off with a one-day Line Manager Awareness course this summer to help equip your teams with skills so that they can help spot the signs of someone who might be struggling and how to handle those situations within the workplace. “Then, later in the year, we plan to host a two-day course for anyone who would like to become a Mental Health First Aider.”

Proving the case for sustainability

Alexandra Brennan is head of sustainability at Johnson Service Group with more than 15 years’ experience in developing and embedding sustainability strategies. TSA CEO David Stevens introduced her saying that for more than 15 years we have been part of the Climate Change Agreement, the legacy of former TSA CEO, the late Murray Simpson.

“However, what we lacked was a real joined up strategy that pulled it all together…She has a real feel for the industry and some of the challenges we will all face.”

Brennan conducted a full review of JSG’s material impacts and came up with ‘The Johnsons Way’ framework which was launched in February and outlines the framework under which JSG will operate going forward and identifies the aims that the Group has set itself.

“The Johnsons Way’ is how we operate as a business and it integrates sustainability into everything we do and every decision we take; it supports our business strategy and it is a vehicle for us to demonstrate progress towards our long term goals,” said Brennan.

The Johnsons Way is structured around four pillars within which JSG commits to deliver specific objectives:

  • Our family
  • Our world
  • Our integrity
  • Our communities

These pillars have been selected so that all our stakeholders and communities can clearly see our aims and aspirations in the areas that they consider important to them.

“We have structured this section of the report around these four pillars to provide transparency and allow for year on year comparison moving forwards.

Find out more at media/2249646/sustainability-21.pdf

Christoph Geppert has been working with the TSA to help it on its sustainable journey and he took the lectern to explain how he and his company, Grain Creative, can help forward-thinking companies create and grow successful and sustainable brands.

Strategy-led naming, identity and digital are all aspects of the Grain strategic brand review, together with its clients Grain defines brands via:

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Find out more about the TSA. its work, membership and check on the TSA Cost Index at


Linford Christie, keynote speaker and a motivator par excellence ,is undoubtedly Europe’s greatest ever100m sprinter. He was the first European to run sub 10 seconds and the first man in history to hold the Olympic, World, European and Commonwealth titles in the 100m. His fastest time 9.87 seconds, recorded when he won the 1993 World Championship in Stuttgart, was the European record for nearly 30 years. Linford remains one of the most decorated British athletes of all time, winning an amazing 24 medals before the end of his 17-year career.

Among the numerous awards bestowed upon Christie was the 1993 ‘BBC Sports Personality of the Year’ and ‘European Athlete of the Year’.

Asked whether he thought he could have beaten Usain Bolt he replied: “You should ask him whether he thinks he could have beaten me.” His point being that in his day there would have been no stopping to draw an imaginary bow or slowing down to see who is behind him, he was so focused on what he was doing. What a race that would have been.