Blog: Sustainability - not just about the environment

Petah Marian | 14 October 2011

I had the pleasure of travelling up to Belper in Derbyshire yesterday (14 October) to see Courtaulds become the first UK clothing manufacturer to receive M&S eco-factory status.

Some M&S executives and a few journalists, including myself, were taken on a tour of the site, which M&S' technical manager Ian Morris told just-style was the "most automated clothing factory in the world", expressing excitement that such technology was "here in Derbyshire".

And, excitement was really the order of the day, with the tour ending with a fashion show featuring the factory's hosiery and much of it modelled by the company's staff. With most staff on hand to watch the show and celebrate, the day was the culmination of a year's worth of work on the audit with M&S and five years of work internally on becoming more efficient.

The celebrations also masked a deeper note, since if it wasn't for this focus on sustainability, the factory would almost certainly struggle to compete with cheaper offshore rivals.

In 2006, the company was in trouble, as Sara Lee effectively gave away the business to Hong Kong company PD Enterprise. Courtaulds then embarked on a programme to make itself more competitive - one aspect of which was halving its energy use, cutting its energy bill to GBP2m a year from what would be GBP4m now if it hadn't made the changes.

For the 400 workers on the Belper site, sustainability is not just about looking after the environment, it has also kept them in a job.


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