Marks and Spencer has launched what it claims to be the world’s first carbon-neutral lingerie. Part of the British retailer’s “Plan A” commitment to attacking climate change, the “Autograph Leaves” range of bras, thongs, panties, and garter belts also supports reforestation efforts in Sri Lanka. The collection is manufactured in an M&S-run plant in Sri Lanka that draws hydroelectric power from a nearby river and solar energy from rooftop panels, slashing emissions by 33 percent. To offset the remaining carbon footprint, M&S is planting more than 6,000 trees in the barren region between the Kanneliya and Polgahakanda forest reserves, a move that will not only increase natural habitats but also allow wildlife to traffic smoothly between the two locations.
M&S’s eco-lingerie factory in Sri Lanka
Because a quarter of the trees planted will bear fruit (such as mangoes and limes), the replanting project will also generate food and income for the local community. Another consideration is the disappearance of 90 percent of the country’s endemic species at a rate of 1.6 percent each year. As a result, the remaining 75 percent of the saplings will be native to Sri Lanka.
By 2020, M&S plans to give each of its 2.7 billion individual products a Plan A attribute.
The Carbon Trust Footprinting Certification Company has independently certified the entire Autograph Leaves collection, taking into account every stage of its life cycle, whether it’s creating and transporting individual components or the energy customers will use to wash and dry their purchases.
“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,” says Mike Barry, head of sustainable business at M&S. The retailer now knows, for instance, that lace is among the most carbon-intensive materials to manufacture. “We’re now working with our suppliers to find better alternatives for the future,” says Paschal Little, head of lingerie technology.
By 2020, M&S plans to give each of its 2.7 billion individual products a Plan A attribute, such as fair-trade certification or the use of sustainable materials. The carbon-neutral knickers are already helping in that regard. “We’re already applying the lessons we’ve learned to other product areas and have taken an important step towards our goal,” Barry says.