|Get your green pants here:|
|Monday, 02 June 2008|
A Sri Lankan firm says it has the world's first carbon-neutral clothes factory
The factory has many energy-saving features. Its carefully designed windows provide enough natural light for workers stitching bras. Its turf roofs provide a cooling shade. Overall it uses 40% less energy than an ordinary factory of the same size. And the electricity it uses is from renewable sources: 90% from a hydro-power plant and 10% from on-site solar panels. MAS reckons it has built the world's first carbon-neutral clothes factory.
It was built at the instigation of Britain's biggest clothier, Marks & Spencer (M&S), which contributed £200,000 ($400,000) towards the cost of the solar panels and design. The “green” underwear that MAS is now making at the factory for M&S will reach British high streets in June, and will cost no more than existing garments.
For MAS, which had revenues of $700m last year, the “eco-factory” began as a branding experiment. Sri Lanka's textiles firms, which account for 67% of the country's industrial production, have higher costs than others in Asia, so they pick niches. MAS, for example, has grown by 20-30% a year over the past two decades by concentrating on complicated, high-value garments, such as lingerie for Victoria's Secret, an American apparel brand. In addition, MAS sells itself as an “ethical” employer—it certainly employs no children to stitch racy smalls for Victoria's Secret. Similarly, the eco-factory helps to tie in an image-sensitive client.
It is also good economics. The factory cost $7m to build, around 25% more than its traditional equivalent. That is partly due to a lot of fancy touches included to meet M&S's demand for an “iconic” factory. Stripped to its basic design, it would have cost about 15% over the odds. The factory's power also costs extra. But in a country that generates 65% of its electricity with imported oil—and saw power-price inflation of 30% in March—the extra costs are offset by energy savings. MAS expects the higher construction costs to have paid for themselves in less than five years.
For M&S, all this is part of “Plan A”, a five-year drive to become carbon-neutral and generally more “ethical” by 2012. M&S initially said this scheme would cost £200m, which it would recoup through higher sales. But the retailer said in May that in the current financial year Plan A would be “cost-neutral”—that is, the scheme has generated savings equal to the investments it requires. Next year the company expects it to be profitable.
It is not all glorious. M&S has had to shelve a plan to run lorries on biofuels because of worries that they are not as green as they seem. Nonetheless, the firm says it has reduced carbon-dioxide emissions from its British operations by 9%, despite opening 103 new stores. It has bought a fleet of 140 tear-shaped trailers, which use 10% less fuel and provide 16% more space than their less aerodynamic forebears.
“It's a very good brand investment for us, and it's not actually costing us any money,” says Mike Barry, M&S's head of corporate responsibility. For all that, he will not say how much M&S is actually investing in its green scheme. It would be interesting to know.
(Courtesy : Economist)
|Last Updated ( Monday, 02 February 2009 )|
|< Prev||Next >|