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Case Study: New Zealand Post

This case study shows how a business can use the Value Chain Guide to review existing projects and prioritise activities.

New Zealand Post views sustainability as fundamental to its connection with New Zealanders and the growth of its business. Over the past six years the company has made sustainability a key part of how it does business.

A non-uniform solution to a uniform problem

In 2012 New Zealand Post identified that a vast number of uniforms – up to 8,000 every year – were still in good condition but were ending up being used as rags or shredded.

Each year employees are given an allowance to buy new uniforms either to replace old, worn out uniforms or to meet new and changing uniform standards. New Zealand Post decided to address the problem of what happened to older uniforms by looking for ways to repurpose them.

They collaborated with EarthLink, Booker Spalding and Massey University's fashion and textile design students, and were supported by social enterprise incubator Akina. This group now has a working solution that allows the uniform material to be de-logoed and distributed for re-use into items such as new clothes for children and women's fashion.

NZ Post case study
New clothes for children and women's fashion made from re-use of the New Zealand Post uniform.

Using the value chain guide

New Zealand Post's sustainability team recently used the Value Chain Guide to assess the uniform re-use project. The team worked through the project's value chain and looked at opportunities and risks from New Zealand Post's perspective.

Using the value chain to refine and improve an existing project has had its benefits. In particular, it has helped to clarify each opportunity and identify some unknown risks. It also made the links between all of the value chain components clearer.

After the risks and opportunities were identified, the team used the prioritisation matrix to identify the most important areas of focus. The company wanted to be clear about where it was best to put its efforts. Following this exercise the team is ensuring the governance structure is strong, roles are clearly defined among the collaborative group, and there are agreed and transparent objectives.

Opportunities Risks

A focus on setting a clear governance structure for the project so it can grow independently of New Zealand Post involvement.

An opportunity to better engage employees on the uniform returns process, including education on the reuse project, which should lead to better care and rates of return.

Make better use of the existing uniform materials by changing the way they are designed.

Work with partners and collaborators to build capability in how to reuse materials. For example, sharing design patterns.

The supply of old uniforms is currently higher than demand for the material.

There is not enough known on the impacts of uniform manufacture and material processing.

Forecasting the number, type and timing of returned items is challenging which can affect the requirements of the users of the material.

The chain of custody requirements need to remain secure to ensure any uniforms with logos are not re-used.

Solutions Key Success Factors

Prioritise improvements to governance structure:

  • roles are clearly defined objectives have been agreed
  • transparent decision making and communication.

Engage and educate staff about uniform care and the reuse project.

Strengthen collaboration with partners.

The uniform project becomes sustainable, scalable (with regards to both supply and demand of the uniform material) and self-funding.

There is increased, long term demand for the uniform material that matches the number of uniforms being supplied.

There is zero waste.


Working through the value chain process helped New Zealand Post to clarify critical risks and opportunities for creating a market supply/demand business model for used material.

It is expected that this could lead to a number of changes in the way uniforms have been designed, used and recycled.

Most importantly, the exercise has helped New Zealand Post to prioritise activities that will ensure the project is a sustainable and scalable social enterprise in the long term.