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Value chains triumph in RSPCA’s welfare awards

The winners of the RSPCA Good Business Awards were announced this week at an awards ceremony at One Marylebone in London.

The awards include five fashion categories which are sponsored by Drapers, and recognise companies for their ethical approach to animal welfare.

Value chain New Look scooped the gong in the large company category for the launch of its formal animal welfare policy, while rival George at Asda earned a highly commended from the judging panel, which included Lisa Armstrong, fashion editor of The Times, and designer Wayne Hemingway.

Marks & Spencer won an outstanding achievement award after impressing the judges with its longstanding commitment to high standards of animal welfare, including the education of its staff and customers on the subject, its no-fur policy and the retailer’s sourcing of wool from unmulesed sheep.

East London womenswear independent Junky Styling was awarded the small company award for fashion with London Fashion Week men’s and womenswear designer Eloise Grey taking a highly commended. Judges praised Junky Styling’s strict no feather or fur policy and its extensive use of recycled and upcycled materials.

The winner in the small company category for accessories was ethical knitwear brand The North Circular, the brainchild of model Lily Cole.

Cornwall-based outdoor clothing brand Finisterre took home the sportswear award in the small company category, with a highly commended going to Rapanui, the ethical and organic sportswear brand located on the Isle of Wight.

Armstrong praised New Look for its formal animal welfare policy, which includes the decision to not use Mongolian lamb fur after researching the way in which the animals are slaughtered.

New Look has set an ethical example

Any smart retailer knows that animal welfare is a key issue for the fashion industry and that they should be developing policies to that end. However, that’s not to say the look and feel of a product isn’t a significant part of the buying process.

I’ve been a fashion category judge of the RSPCA Good Business Awards (GBA) for six years. During this time I’ve become aware of just how many complex issues are involved in getting attractive, animal welfare-friendly clothing onto the shopfloor.

Companies such as New Look, George at Asda and Marks & Spencer, all finalists in the GBAs, are making terrific strides and are pioneers within the industry - all price conscious, fashion-led and hot on animal welfare.

In the past year, New Look has launched a formal animal welfare policy and has been bold enough to make it a public pledge on its corporate website. It has also taken the decision to buck the high street trend of using Mongolian lamb fur after investigating how cruelly the animals are slaughtered.

To see a large international retailer take this leap is really heartening. New Look doesn’t need to adopt these policies to sell more clothes. It seems to me it is taking an almost paternalistic approach and other companies should take note.

New Look creates fashion-led, affordable and animal welfare-friendly clothing for a younger audience, which in turn educates them on the importance of where their clothes come from.

As this year’s finalists demonstrate, this is the start of a long journey. Ultimately, it’s the big chains that have the might to accelerate this process and place animal welfare at the forefront of the consumers’ considerations - while producing stylish clothes consumers actually want to wear.

Lisa Armstrong is fashion editor of The Times and a judge of the fashion categories at the RSPCA Good Business Awards.

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