Marks & Spencer has launched the high street’s first ever carbon neutral bra, as part of the retailer’s new Autograph Leaves lingerie collection. The Carbon Trust Footprinting Certification Company has calculated and independently certified the footprint of the entire Autograph Leaves collection, which includes four styles of bra, three knickers and a set of suspenders. The calculation takes into account each item’s complete life cycle – from component manufacture to transportation and even the energy customers use washing and drying their underwear.
The collection was manufactured at the M&S eco-model factory MAS Intimates in Thurulie, Sri Lanka. The innovative renewable energy features and reduced waste initiatives implemented at MAS Intimates have helped reduce the carbon intensity of the energy used by an estimated 33%, compared to typical factory production.
Paschal Little, head of lingerie technology at M&S, says: “Nature is the inspiration behind Autograph Leaves so it’s fitting that this range benefits the environment too. As the UK’s lingerie market leader, we think it’s right that we should lead the way in exploring new, more sustainable manufacturing options. As a result of this project we know raw material production, such as lace manufacture, is a major contributing factor to the bra’s footprint, so we’re now working with our suppliers to find better alternatives for the future.”
The factory’s local community is also benefiting from this initiative. M&S has purchased offsets through a carbon credit project run by Conservation Carbon Company. Working in partnership with nine local farmers, M&S is planting over 6000 trees in the desolate land between the Kanneliya and Polgahakanda forest reserves. Sri Lanka’s forests are home to approximately 90% of the country’s endemic species but are disappearing at a rate of 1.6% per annum. To counter this 75% of the trees planted are native species, creating more natural habitats and enabling wildlife to move more easily between the two forests.
The project will also help tackle rural poverty in the region by improving the livelihood of the farmers involved. The other 25% of trees will be income generating varieties such as mango and lime trees that offer additional nutritional and financial security to the farmers and their families.
“The complexity of a bra’s supply chain makes it the ideal product to learn about the practicalities of carbon footprinting, as it contains 21 component parts from 12 different suppliers. We’re already applying the lessons we’ve learned to other product areas,” comments Mike Barry, head of sustainable business at M&S