Nov 23, 2007

Consumers and retailers drive sustainability in Asia

MAS Intimates Thurulie (MAS) in Sri Lanka will be making bras for Marks & Spencer (M&S), a favorite UK department store, in a green facility. Retailers like Walmart and M&S are driving change in Asia, where environmental and safety responsibility are often lacking. Part of the change is the result of shoppers' growing concerns about how the products they buy affect the global environment. Consumers want guilt-free buying.

M&S will advise MAS on sustainable construction. M&S already claims to have “green” stores in the UK, so it is passing its knowledge and experience into its supply chain. M&S will start by paying for architectural design of the Sri Lankan facility. All this is part of the M&S Plan A.

Mr. Paschal Little, Head of Technology, Lingerie, Marks & Spencer, said at the factory groundbreaking ceremony, “Just as we are aiming to reduce the carbon footprint and waste from our operations in the UK and the Republic of Ireland, we are also keen to work with our suppliers to reduce our impact in the countries in which we source our goods.”

MAS brings to the table its MAS Operating System (MOS), based on the Toyota Production System, with which they have been applying lean in the apparel industry.

The 10,000 square foot factory is meant to be a zero-emission facility. It’s expected to save 50% on water and 40% on electricity compared to a non-green factory by relying on solar-electric, solar-thermal, wind, and sewage treatment-produced methane. LED lighting and rooftop rainwater collection will also cut down on power and water consumption. Building materials will include Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified wood and cement-stabilized-earth bricks. The project will be independently certified by the US Green Building Council's (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System.

The bra factory will be just one of the occupants of the evolving MAS Holdings fabric park, which is being built, according to MAS, “with respect for the site, the user and the environment, and drawing inspiration from traditional Sri Lankan architecture, building on stilts, with inner courtyards and extensive greenery around the structures giving thermal comfort, minimizing disturbance of land contours and drainage patterns.”

The green belts are also meant to get employees to use bicycles. Dormitories and “villas,” along with healthcare and sports facilities will be included in the development.

The MAS Institute of Management Technology (MIMT) will be on the site for training and IT development, rounding out the picture of manufacturing, employee services, and education.

MAS Holdings, founded in 1987, also supplies Victoria’s Secret (becoming VS’s supplier of the year in 2006), GAP, Nike, and Speedo with 28 facilities, two design studios and a sourcing and innovation arm across seven countries. It employs more than 40,000 people. MAS has also supported women’s empowerment through the Women Go Beyond program, the GAP Go Beyond Program.

Everyone knows that Wal-Mart wields considerable power over its worldwide suppliers, and it’s pushing sustainability on several fronts. It has entered a partnership with the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) to measure the amount of energy used to create products throughout its supply chain, including the procurement, manufacturing and distribution process. Using this measurement tool, says a Wal-Mart press release, the company will begin to work with suppliers to look for ways to make the entire process more energy efficient.

I’d be willing to bet this is the future of global development, with the values of European and North American shoppers making clean and humane manufacturing more or less mandatory. Yes, right now the constant low price focus of buyers is resulting in almost unimaginable damage, but global scrutiny is having an effect. Will the change come in time to keep humankind from trashing the planet? Who knows?

More about MAS
More about sustainability at Wal-Mart

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