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Tights maker walks away with M&S eco award

A factory in Derbyshire employing more than 400 people will be able to compete with the Far East and secure its future after it turned itself into an eco factory – halving its energy bill and saving millions in costs.

Marks & Spencer has awarded the factory in Belper, Derbyshire, with its Plan A eco-factory status.

Factory owner Courtaulds – which supplies a third of the 180 pairs of tights that M&S sells a minute – invested more than £2m in improving its West Mill factory. It is the first UK clothing factory to receive the M&S award, following the roll-out from M&S's eco model factories in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

M&S said it is supporting UK manufacture in specialist areas. Making tights is skilled work.

Jonny Mitchell, the managing director of Courtaulds legwear, said the factory's changes, such as reduced energy and water consumption, have given it an "edge again to be able to compete with the Far East".

Courtaulds has been supplying M&S with hosiery for more than 30 years. The retailer has a 28 per cent share of the British hosiery market. With an average product turnaround time of 3.5 weeks, a UK-based factory can respond to fast-moving fashion trends.