Today, M&S has launched new sustainability standards for one of its most popular hero categories – denim – as customers say responsibly made clothing is important. In a recent M&S survey, over half (58%)** of customers agreed sustainability is a key consideration when shopping for this wardrobe staple and 75% are looking for jeans that are made to last. The first M&S range to meet the new standards launches online today across womenswear, menswear and kidswear, and all products are made of 100% responsibly sourced cotton, 86% less water* and kinder chemicals.

New denim standards – sustainable style 

With M&S selling one in 10 pairs of jeans to customers across the UK, the new standards are part of its wider approach to sustainable clothing and focus on three key aspects of denim manufacturing from sourcing to finishing:

1. The fabric – always 100% sustainably-sourced cotton 

Cotton is soft, breathable and hardwearing and is the core material in the denim M&S customers love. 100% of the cotton used for all M&S clothing will always be responsibly sourced, with the majority through the Better Cotton Initiative – helping farmers to reduce their water usage (roughly 18bn liters of water were saved through M&S’s sourcing of BCI in 2019) and increase their profits (read farmers’ stories here).

2. The wash – 86% less water than industry average 

The wash is the process that gives denim its distinctive look and ensures everyday comfort and the high-quality, long-lasting finish customers trust M&S to deliver – however it’s typically a water-intensive process.

By partnering with Jeanologia – the leader in sustainable finishing technologies – M&S together with its suppliers have worked hard to address these challenges by innovating and investing in the latest technology. As a result, on average M&S jeans are now made with 86% less water* compared to the industry standard for denim finishing.

3. The dye – using kinder chemicals 

Dyes are used to create the popular range of denim shades, from light to dark indigo. However, as part of its new standards, M&S is committed to switching standard indigo dyes with cleaner alternatives that are kinder to people and the planet – requiring less water and chemicals to produce. Nearly 50% of the Spring/Summer range have been made with this lower-impact dye.

More relevant, more often

M&S is focused on offering products that are more relevant, more often to UK customers for how they’re living and working. During the covid pandemic, as casual styles remain popular, M&S has seen a continued demand for denim – in particular its bestselling £15 jegging (of which M&S sells two pairs every minute). With sustainability more important than ever before for customers, today M&S is launching a digital campaign to share its new standards with them. The Spring/Summer campaign will show the jeans off with energy, confidence and style, highlighting the trusted value they offer as made to last, responsibly sourced items.

Monique Leeuwenburgh, Head of Product Technology for M&S Clothing & Home, commented: “Denim is a wardrobe staple for our customers – but we know now more than ever they want style where sustainability is built in as standard. By taking collaborative action with our denim suppliers, we can give our customers the confidence that every pair of M&S jeans they buy for the family are not only stylish, great quality and fantastic value – but have been responsibly made too. Our new Spring/Summer denim campaign brings that trusted value promise to life across our digital channels.”

Focus on ethical supply chains

Underpinning M&S’s new denim standards is the retailer’s wider ethical commitments, as M&S continues to focus on ensuring workers are treated fairly and their human rights are respected. This includes transparently listing the locations and key details for every factory M&S works with including for denim on its interactive supplier map.

The retailer recently became one of the first companies to sign the Call to Action to ensure that its supply chains are not linked to the human rights abuses in the Xinjiang region. Last month, M&S also asked Oxfam to conduct a gap analysis of its supply chains in the UK and India to better understand the true worker experience and where it can do better along with the wider industry.