More than just environmental impact.
Finding a job can be incredibly challenging and often a tough experience for anyone, especially for those with a health condition or disability.
At UPPAREL, our journey has always been led by our commitment to making a positive impact on the planet. Our sole purpose has been to eradicate textile waste from landfills and transform what was once considered waste, into a valuable resource. Along the way we’ve always had a philosophy that we carry across all facets of the business; progress over perfection.
We know we don’t have all the answers or solutions. We do, however, have a commitment to making a positive change. Keeping an open mind and learning from our experiences ensures that we constantly progress as we strive for perfection. Through those learnings and as we grow as a business, we’ve found that we have an opportunity to not only make a positive environmental impact but a positive social impact as well.
Over the past couple of months, our warehouse team has been leading a program to offer young people with disabilities valuable work experience to prepare them for future employment. The participants have been assisting our warehouse team with a number of tasks such as the sortation and decommissioning of our partner’s items. Currently, the group is working through an average of 800kg of textiles each day! All items that are identified as fit-for-wear will be passed on to our Australian charity partners for reuse. Any remaining items that are damaged, faulty, or moderately worn will be sent into our recycling process.
Fighting social stigma.
There’s an unfortunate but undeniable stigma in Australia surrounding disability. It’s this persistent stigma that has likely caused widespread underemployment of people with a disability, rather than any difficulties or restrictions to employing people with disabilities. From our experience, we found that the program’s participants are highly capable and with correct guidance have completed every task we’ve thrown at them. A study has even shown that employees with disability actually have higher rates of retention, better attendance and fewer occupational health and safety incidents than those without a disability. 
Employment can provide people with disability with increased income, and with this, higher living standards and financial independence. Employment can contribute to a sense of identity and self-worth and have positive health impacts for some people with disability. 
Opportunity for all.
Not only does this program provide real-life work experience, but we’re also offering long term employment for select participants of the program at UPPAREL. Additionally, we’re working with our Australian brand partners to provide further employment opportunities at their facilities. We’ve always been about finding on-shore solutions, but now we’re creating on-shore opportunities for Australians living with disabilities.
This initiative has been an excellent demonstration of the potential we have to make a great social impact. Although, as we always say at UPPAREL, this is just the beginning! We have the power to create a fantastic opportunity as we explore what’s possible in this space and discover what else we can offer.
If you’d like to get involved in a similar program, please send us an email and we’ll be in touch as soon as possible!
 K Hindle, J Noble, and B Phillips, ‘Are workers with a disability less productive? An empirical challenge to a suspect axiom’ (1999) Paper submitted to the refereed stream of the ANZAM 99 Conference, University of Tasmania), p 5; J Graffam, A Shinkfield, K Smith, and U Polzin, ‘Employer benefits and costs of employing a person with a disability’ (2002) 17 Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation, pp 251-263.
 Department of Social Services, Shut Out: The Experience of People with Disabilities and their Families in Australia (2012). At https://www.dss.gov.au/our-responsibilities/disability-and-carers/publications-articles/policy-research/shut-out-the-experience-of-people-with-disabilities-and-their-families-in-australia?HTML (viewed 27 May 2015).