With the recent launch of the world’s first Carbon Neutral bra (for which we are the offset provider) we thought this would be a good time to republish this article about the MAS Holdings factory where the clothing range is being made.
Original posted May 7, 2008. by our partners at MCS.
The MAS Intimates Thurulie Factory in Thulhiriya, Sri Lanka, is the world’s first garment eco-factory. MAS Holdings worked in collaboration with Marks & Spencer, and now this unprecedented $7 million venture is fast becoming the benchmark for other green garment factories. This is the first Marks & Spencer Plan A factory and they intend to work with suppliers the world over to build more eco-manufacturing facilities. Marks & Spencer Plan A is a 5 year, 100 point, £200 million eco-plan, which aims to target prominent challenges faced by businesses around the world, with a primary emphasis on climate change.
The MAS Intimates Thurulie Factory is also the first factory built specifically for MAS’ lean manufacturing MAS Operating System (MOS). The concept of this operating system was derived from the famous Toyota Production System (TPS) and it strives to eliminate waste, both in material and process, to achieve greater efficiencies.
A green factory from its inception, the Thurulie Factory engages in as many eco-friendly practices as possible. The core elements which the factory is focused on include design, energy, lighting, water usage, waste management, bio-diversity and worker well being. The factory was made from ecologically friendly material: with eco bricks (made out of stabilised earth) used for the walls and cement-stabilised earth for the roads and walkways. Excavation was used minimally during the construction of the site and the plant partly rests on stilts, to minimise damage to the land profile and drainage patterns.
Thurulie is also aligned in a strategic manner to avoid direct sunlight or heat into the walls and this simultaneously enables large windows to bring in natural light. In the factory, green roofs with grown vegetation and cool roofs with high solar reflectivity, are used to ensure a cooler interior. This is further enforced with extensive greening, which totals to about 75% of the site, to create a cooler micro climate.
As for energy saving practices; a low energy “evaporative cooling” system is used in place of air conditioners and this alone saves 65% of the energy consumed. A multitude of solar panels provide 10% of the plant’s power, while the other 90% is provided by an innovative “green power” supply agreement from a small hydro power plant in Deniyaya via the national grid. Here, we can also see the first use of net metering in Sri Lanka. Excess or unused energy generated by the solar panels is in turn returned to the grid with the electricity meter turning backwards and the factory is billed according to the net amount of energy used. Light usage is minimised by depending amply on daylight to light the premises and individual sewing machines are kitted out with an LED based task light. Meanwhile, rain catchment tanks are used to collect water for non-drinking purposes, such as flushing toilets and landscaping.
All sewage is treated by an on-site anaerobic digestion sewage treatment facility and the bio-gas which is a by product of this will be used in the kitchen. A lot of detail is paid to the well being of employees as well; with amenities such as relax-stations, picnic areas and a holistic centre on-site. In theme with promoting green practices, incentives are also offered to encourage the use of car pooling and bicycles, while electricity powered bikes are used internally.
Currently, the MAS Intimates Thurulie Factory employs 300 machine operators and produces 12,000 bras per week. They are aiming to have 1000 personnel by 2008 and 1300 employees by 2010. They are also looking at a target output of around 6 million bras by the end of 2009.
The MAS Factory is expected to be 40% more energy efficient than a similar scale factory, while using 50% less water. In terms of certification, they intend on getting a Gold or Platinum LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Certification. This is a global certification of green building standards, which was developed by the US Green Building Council. It supports design and construction practices that reduce the environmental impact, as well as maintaining occupant health and well being.
The video below about the factory was produced by a Sri Lankan TV channel.