The 'current business model for the UK fashion industry is unsustainable'

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The 'current business model for the UK fashion industry is unsustainable'


The British Parliament's Environmental Audit Committee has released its report looking into the eco impact of fast fashion, based on six months interviews and investigations of 16 high street and fast fashion retailers. And it's not impressed.

Georgina Wilson-Powell

Thu 31 Jan 2019

Since last Autumn the Environmental Audit Committee has been speaking to 16 high street and online fast fashion retailers including M&S, JD Sports, Boohoo, ASOS and Amazon. It has been assessing their commitment to global sustainability practices as well as their efforts to support labour trade initiatives.

Six retailers especially were singled out as lagging far behind - Boohoo, Missguided, JD Sports, Sports Direct, TK Maxx and Amazon UK - none of these have signed up to the Sustainable Clothing Action Plan (SCAP) to reduce carbon, water and waste or signed up to the Action, Collaboration and Transformation (ACT) agreement which aims to raise wages and living standards for garment workers.

Kurt Geiger didn't respond to MPs requests to give evidence. MPs point out Amazon UK's 'notable' lack of engagement with the committee despite it being a patron of the British Fashion Industry.

The British Parliament's Environmental Audit Committee​ has released its report looking into the eco impact of fast fashion

16 high street and online fast fashion retailers were asked to share information with the Environmental Audit Committee​

Five high street and online stores were found to be 'moderately engaged': Next, Debenhams, Arcadia Group and ASDA. The committee found that some steps have been taken in some areas to be more sustainable - ie, using organic cotton, taking back discarded clothes and signing up to SCAP but none of these retailers does all of these things.

MP Mary Creagh, Chair of the Environment Audit Committee said: "It's shocking to see that a group of major retailers are failing to take action to promote environmental sustainability and protect their workers.

By publishing this information, customers can choose whether they want to spend money with a company that is doing little to protect the environment or promote proper wages for garment workers. We hope this motivates underperforming retailers to start taking responsibility for their workers and their environmental impact."

The fast fashion retailers that fared the best out of the report were: Marks & Spencer, ASOS, Tesco, Primark and Burberry. All of these brands use organic cotton, recycled materials and have in store take back schemes. Burberry was noted for ending it's incineration practices of dead stock which saw it hit the headlines last year. ASOS is also the first retailer to sign up to IndustriALL, which promotes the highest standards on labour and trade union rights and health and safety at work.

Key conclusions from the report include:

  • The current business model for the UK fashion industry is unsustainable
  • Retailers must lead change through environmental sustainability and labour practices
  • Retailers should show leadership through engagement with industry initiatives

To read the entire report, click here.