M&S listening to underwear concerns! (Mar10)

Mike Barry – Head of Sustainable Business at M&S


I buy most of my underwear from M&S. You won’t be surprised to hear that this winter I’ve bought some thermals!

Reading the pack I was surprised to see the following instructions – ‘It’s easy to look after too – just put it in the machine and then the tumble drier.’ My eco-radar went into over-drive! This didn’t tie in well with M&S’s ground-breaking Plan A initiative.

Tumble driers are pretty well top of the black list for energy wasting appliances. Even if you live in a small flat you should be able to find somewhere to dry your clothes – a rack in the bath or a pulley system near the ceiling, for example.

I’ve been working with M&S for years advising them on sustainability issues. So I wrote an email to Mike Barry, Head of Sustainable Business. He emailed me back, as follows: ‘Lingerie have agreed we will remove this ‘recommendation’ to tumble dry thermal for Autumn 2010, on the packaging.’ He went on to explain that there would still be a drier symbol on the sew-in label because that’s just to show that the items can be tumble dried.

I’m looking forward to warmer weather but in the mean-time I’m still wearing my thermals – and I won’t be putting them in the drier.

3 thoughts on “M&S listening to underwear concerns! (Mar10)

  1. Anonymous says:

    Me bad !! Gave up car to help the environment, but I have a gas tumble dryer [though I use it less often than I did].

    I used to have a hot bath EVERY DAY but have now moved back to showers.

    This is the problem – when you 'do one thing' [and quite a big thing] you do feel 'entitled' to some treats in other areas, especially when no one else seems to be pulling their weight.

  2. annaguyer says:

    That just goes to prove that M&S is not always as green as it seems. I am also always amazed at how cheaply that they can now produce M&S knickers – can they really produce them at those prices and still maintain an ethical supply chain?

    How green are your knickers was an interesting theme for Lucy Siegle in The Observer last week – can you buy knickers and still be green?
    Pantstopoverty.com seems like a really good organisation – perhaps you should switch allegiance?

  3. Anonymous says:

    On no….

    You write: Even if you live in a small flat you should be able to find somewhere to dry your clothes – a rack in the bath or a pulley system near the ceiling, for example."

    I've always been wary of people who tell me I "SHOULD be able to"… No. It's never that simple.

    Lived in a flat? High-rise? Concrete walls? Metal window frames? Condensation problems? Damp? Mildew? Mould? Asthma? Bathroom windows that don't even open? Fumes from urban traffic congestion coming in the few windows that do?

    What's my point? It's simple. There is no "SHOULD be able to" unless you are talking ideal scenarios and life (our life, I can't comment on yours) is rarely ideal.

    I have a severely disabled son who is incontinent and still in nappies at 7yrs. The nappies are disposable and everything else goes in the drier. Period. It is a necessity. For somebody else the necessity will still be 'a necessity', just a different 'cause' – maybe chronic asthma caused by damp housing conditions that do not permit wet clothes perennially drying over the bath; maybe something else – some other cause.

    I wish our lives were as simple as yours. The job is not done by calling M&S and telling them not to tell us to tumble dry their thermals. The job is done by turning the problem on its head.

    Rather than addressing "The Laundry", address the social housing; address the manufacture of windows and ventilation systems; address the complexity of people's lives and the pace that they must live them to keep their vile and wretched underpaid jobs. THEN, when you've made that start, think about beginning to tackle the utter failure of our local authorities to address the needs of tenants who can only dream of one day living the life you'd like us to lead. THEN, and only then, when you've spent an entire lifetime banging your head against a brick wall and eventually (just maybe) make some slight inroad into actually changing the material and spiritual conditions of our suffering, will you be qualified to lecture us on whether or not we should tumble dry our underwear!

    You're interested in ethical issues? OK. These are ethical issues, right here. But where's the ethics in publishing preachy generalisations, or peppering those generalisations with smug comments such as "My eco-radar went into over-drive"?

    I can't afford an eco-radar – and come to think of it, I can't even afford thermal underwear. You're preaching to the converted and, as long as you are doing that, you are changing very little. It is the masses, people like me who can't afford your principles or your ethics, that really require your help. Sexing up M&S packaging so that a few forty-somethings get a buzz out of saving the planet is not going to save anything. That's the truth.

    If this comment doesn't get deleted, THEN I'll have more faith in your ethics and will maybe be more forgiving of preachy generalisations.

    Petra K

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