The M&S Autograph Leaves multiway bra comes in sizes 32A–40DD and costs GBP22 (US$35.80)

The M&S Autograph Leaves multiway bra comes in sizes 32A–40DD and costs GBP22 (US$35.80)

Retailer Marks & Spencer has launched what it claims is the high street's first ever carbon neutral bra - and hopes its research will also lead to more sustainable manufacturing options.

The bra has been made at its eco-model factory at Thurulie in Sri Lanka, and is part of the new Autograph Leaves lingerie collection which has had its entire carbon footprint independently certified by the Carbon Trust.  

For each of the four styles of bra, three knickers and set of suspenders that make up the range, the verification body has calculated the impact of everything from component manufacture to transportation and even the energy customers use washing and drying their underwear.

"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," explains Paschal Little, head of lingerie technology at M&S.

"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 collection was made at the MAS Intimates Thurulie lingerie factory, the world's first 'green' garment manufacturing plant which was opened in 2008.

Its innovative renewable energy features and reduced waste initiatives have helped reduce the carbon intensity of the energy used by an estimated 33%, compared to typical factory production.

M&S has also purchased offsets equivalent to 1,440 tonnes CO2e through a carbon credit project run by Conservation Carbon Company. This offsets more than the current production run of the Autograph Leaves Collection, it says.

"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," explains Mike Barry, head of sustainable business at M&S.

The retailer points out that while the carbon footprint of a typical Autograph Leaves bra is around 2kg CO2e, this varies depending on the style and size of the item as some garments involve more complex production or more raw materials.

For example, the footprint of a basic non-padded bra is around 1.70 kgC02e compared to a larger push up bra at 2.20kgCO2e