The Green Guide: How sustainable is your wardrobe? Jessica Carroll challenges fashion’s eco credentials
This week, Jessica Carroll asks the question: How sustainable is an M&S shirt
This week, Jessica Carroll asks the question: How sustainable is an M&S shirt. Thanks to some excellent new collections, Marks & Spencer is emerging from a few years in the fashion wilderness
Thanks to some excellent new collections, Marks & Spencer is emerging from a few years in the fashion wilderness. This shirt is made from linen – arguably the ultimate eco-conscious natural fibre. It will biodegrade when composted and flax (the plant linen comes from) requires 60 per cent less water to grow than cotton. Flax is having a moment after its recent appearance at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in Fashion Revolution’s garden, which highlighted the role of plants in the fashion industry.
M&S may have seen a rise in clothes and homeware sales – last year’s profit before tax was £522.9 million – but are its sustainability efforts up, too? When it comes to packaging, no. This shirt arrived in a plastic mailing bag with a plastic garment cover and hanger.
While M&S doesn’t disclose the exact factory in Bangladesh this shirt was made in, the company is on the Open Apparel Registry, which lists all the factories it uses. A recent survey by pioneering textiles supplier Alchemie Technology found that 59 per cent of UK consumers are prepared to pay more for ethically made clothing, so more transparency would be useful.
Linen is a sustainability superstar: one tonne of flax absorbs up to 2.1 tonnes of CO2, making it a carbon-neutral crop. M&S has also just launched a competition asking tech start-ups to find solutions to several sustainability issues.
THE EXTRA MILE
In order to reduce waste, M&S donates samples and unsold stock to charity and in the past decade has given 30 million pieces to Oxfam, raising £21 million. Commendable, but is it also a sign that M&S is guilty of overproduction?
If you want to shop more consciously, this shirt is a great place to start. Not only is it timeless, linen is incredibly durable, so you’ll be reaching for it season after season. However, greener packaging and reducing excess production would improve De the brand’s final score.