Fashion brands failing on sustainability

Wear hanging on rack in clothing store. Sale and shopping concept

A new report published by the government’s Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) investigating the sustainability of the fashion industry has said to have “shocked MPs” over inaction of several high street brands.

The report, released on 30 January, notes that JD Sport, Sports Direct, TK Mazz, Boohoo, Missguided, and Amazon, were all “least” engaged in sustainability and all had failed to sign up to SCAP (Sustainable Clothing Action Plan) — the industry led action plan to minimise the environmental impact of clothes.

Mary Craegh, EAC Chair 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.”

Continuing, she said in a statement that: “It’s disappointing that only a third of the retailers we wrote to are signed up to ACT, an important global initiative working towards getting a living wage for all garment workers.”

Other stores, such as Next, Debenhams, Arcadia Group and ASDA stores were found to be “moderately engaged” in taking some steps to address sustainability issues.

In autumn last year, the committee wrote to 16 leading fashion retailers after it was revealed that Burberry burned £28.6 million of unused products in 2017 to protect its brand and prevent stock from being sold at knockdown prices.

The letter caused the company to publicly end its practice of destroying unwanted products, and now reuses, repairs, donates, or recycles unsaleable products.

Despite a handful of retailers falling behind, the committee also found that other brands were moving ahead with sustainability efforts.

Asos, Marks & Spencer, Tesco, Primark, and indeed Burberry were some of the most engaged, and were found to be using organic cotton and recycled materials. Some also offer in-store take-back schemes.

Creagh added that: “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.”

Andy has worked as a freelance journalist for a number of years and has been published in some of the UK’s top newspapers. He is now the editor Commercial Waste Magazine and contributes to a large selection of headlines and blog articles on the site.

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