Product, Lives and Planet Changed for Good: How an apparel manufacturer embraces a holistic approach to sustainability
By Reuters Plus · 18 Aug 2022
People of MAS
Women Go Beyond
MAS Holdings is on a journey to weave sustainability into the fabric of the apparel industry, on the simple premise of doing the right thing.
Over 35 years ago, when founders Mahesh, Ajay and Sharad Amalean created MAS Holdings, they knew that they were venturing into an industry associated with sweatshops, widespread pollution, and labour issues, and wanted to be a part of creating change within the apparel industry.
Today, the CEO of MAS Holdings, Suren Fernando, explains that MAS understood from an early stage that “we cannot really succeed if the society around us continues to fail,” adding that this has helped the company position itself as an organization that lives by its purpose and values, and strives to make a difference to its stakeholders.
From the very beginning, MAS was built on the ethos of doing the right thing, and today, more emphasis is placed on sustainability than ever before. Head of Sustainable Business Sid Amalean shares that these foundational values have evolved into the MAS Plan for Change, a holistic sustainability strategy, focusing on changing products, lives, and our planet, for good.
“The Plan for Change is our commitment to inspire sustainable change within our business, our communities, and customers and suppliers as well…. Everybody has to come together in order to truly make a difference.”
Nemanthie Kooragamage, Director of Product Creation and Sustainability at MAS, elaborates on the once traditional manufacturing process of the apparel and textiles industry, stating:
“In the industry, traditionally, we have a very linear system where we take materials out of the earth, make our raw materials, stitch it, then send it to the consumer who will [then] use it and throw it [away]…
Kooragamage explains that to further its agenda on sustainability, MAS focuses on creating sustainable products that are good for the wearer, the planet, and business:
“We have taken the ambitious challenge of converting 50% of our revenue to sustainable products by 2025. Our focus and ultimate goal is to make sure that through innovation, we are able to make products that last longer, are used for longer, that use fewer resources, that the wearer still loves.”
None of this would be possible without MAS’ dedicated workforce. Anushiya Thavarasa, a training instructor at MAS, describes the organisation as one that is both safe and considerate to its employees, and provides numerous benefits like training, transportation, and childcare support:
“When I am at work, I leave my children at the creche where they are safe… [because of that] I have no difficulties carrying out my work… We can travel safely with no issues because they provide us with these benefits.”
These flexible work arrangements are secured through the “Women Go Beyond” program whereby MAS’ gender equality agenda is achieved. Thanuja Jayawardene, General Manager of Women’s Empowerment and Advocacy goes on to explain:
“The work requires us to look at different gaps and different challenges… We have flexible work arrangements for men and women both. For businesses, different perspectives are vital for stronger problem solving, more innovation, and better governance.”
Sri Lanka, where MAS is headquartered, is a country that is rich in biodiversity. CEO of MAS Kreeda and Sustainability Advisory Council Member at MAS, Sarinda Unamboowe, notes the organisation’s promise to counterbalance any displacement of biodiversity caused by its operations, through the Plan for Change commitment to “rejuvenate or replant 100 times of what we have displaced.”
Unamboowe also strongly believes in ownership of individuals, adding that as residents of the only planet that we have, individuals too have a responsibility to impact our world in a net positive manner—leaving a better planet for everyone.