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The Environmental Audit Committee is calling on the UK government to make fashion retailers take responsibility for the waste they create.
In a new report, Fixing
the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) calls on the UK government to
make fashion retailers take responsibility for the waste they create —
suggesting, among other measures, a 1p producer responsibility charge on each
item of clothing that could pay for better clothing collection and recycling.
In June 2018, the EAC launched an inquiry into the sustainability of the fashion industry, surveying 16 leading UK fashion retailers on what, if anything, they are doing to reduce the environmental and social impact of the clothes and shoes they sell. Within the report are key recommendations that the EAC hopes parliament will pass into law. As the EAC states in the report, “The fashion industry has marked its own homework for too long.”
The report outlines key recommendations for Parliament that cover not only
waste, but also the importance of education, and improving human rights and
other responsible supply chain practices:
Mandatory environmental targets for fashion retailers with a turnover above
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An Extended Producer
(EPR) scheme to reduce textile waste with a one-penny charge per garment on
The scheme should reward fashion companies that design products with lower
and penalize those that do not — using the tax system to shift the balance
of incentives in favor of reuse, repair and
to support responsible producers.
The Government should follow Sweden's lead and reduce VAT on repair
Lessons on designing, creating, mending and repairing clothes should be part
The Government should publish a publicly accessible list of retailers
required to release a modern slavery statement. This should be supported by
an appropriate penalty for those companies who fail to report and comply
with the Modern Slavery
The fashion industry must come together to set out a
for a net zero emissions world, reducing their carbon consumption back to
Environmental Audit Committee Chair Mary Creagh MP comments below:
The report warns that although some parts of the fashion industry are making
progress in reducing their carbon and water consumption, these improvements have
been outweighed by the increased volumes of clothing being sold. It concludes
that a voluntary approach to improving the sustainability of the fashion
industry is failing, with just 10 fashion retailers signed up to reduce their
water, waste and carbon footprints.
It recommends that compliance with WRAP’s Sustainability Clothing Action
Plan targets should be
made mandatory for all retailers with a turnover of more than £36 million as a
‘license to practice.’
It is also recommended that Government work with retailers to increase use of
digital supply chain
for better traceability.
The MPs say that we need new economic models for fashion that are based on
reducing the material consumption associated with growth. To drive improvements,
the Government should reform taxation to reward fashion companies that design
products with lower environmental impacts.
This could include extending the proposed tax on virgin plastics to
synthetic textile products to stimulate the market for recycled fibers in the
UK. The Committee also wants the new EPR scheme to accelerate government and
industry research into the environmental performance of different materials and
measures to reduce microfiber
The report also calls on Ministers to explore how they can support new sharing
economy models such as hiring, swapping or subscription clothes services.
Increasing a garment’s lifetime is one of the most effective means of reducing
its environmental footprint. Around 300,000 tonnes of clothing ends up in
household bins every year with around 80% of this incinerated and 20% sent to
A charge of one penny per garment producers as part of a new EPR scheme could
raise £35 million for investment in better clothing collection and recycling in
the UK. The Committee is also calling on the Government to ban incineration or
landfilling of unsold stock that
can be reused or recycled.
While many clothing brands are produced in Asian countries with low labor costs
and weak environmental governance, there has been a recently growth in garment
manufacturing in the UK, as brands and retailers seek to respond faster to
consumer demand. Unsurprisingly, manufacturers are under pressure from retailers
to produce garments at unrealistically low prices — as a result, the EAC heard
evidence that sub-minimum wage issues are widespread in Leicester’s garment
The report calls for changes to the Modern Slavery Act and Companies Act to
increase transparency, and require large fashion brands and retailers to perform
due diligence checks across their supply chains to ensure their products are
produced without forced or child labor.
Fashion Revolution — a key contributor to the report — said it welcomes the
“We too want to see a thriving fashion industry in the UK that employs people,
inspires creativity and contributes to sustainable livelihoods in the UK and
around the world, and we believe that brands and retailers have an obligation to
address the fundamental business model,” said Policy Director Sarah Ditty. “We
believe that the fashion industry in the United Kingdom and globally needs
far-reaching systemic change in order to tackle poverty, inequality and
environmental degradation, and greater
is the first crucial step towards solving its human rights and environmental
crises. We hope to see the policymakers and citizens across the UK work hard to
make sure that these recommendations are adopted into policy.”
While agreeing that the proposed tax is a “good first step,” Becky Willan, Managing Director of brand purpose consultancy Given, adds: “A tax initiative like this does put well-placed pressure on fashion brands, but the challenges of making the industry truly sustainable are so much broader and more complex than simply recycling, [which] does little to address the throwaway culture that exists at the heart of 'fast fashion. Consumer behaviour and attitudes also need to be transformed — to reverse the trend of overconsumption, we need to unlock a much bigger culture shift.”
Published Feb 19, 2019 7pm EST / 4pm PST / 12am GMT / 1am CET