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Editor's Comment: Why a 1p garment tax misses the point

Keely Stocker

Fashion is one of the world’s most polluting industries. Implementing and executing sustainability targets must be a priority of every fashion leader today.

The industry cannot continue to allow practices that damage our planet, our people and our – as well as the next generation’s – future.

The fashion industry has been called out – and in the most part, it has been deserved.

This week, the environmental audit committee published its final report, and made several sensible initiatives to drive the sustainability agenda.

A reform on tax to reward companies that offer clothing repairs makes sense. Mandatory environmental targets for fashion retailers with £36m-plus turnover is a no-brainer and any retailer that has not already set out its sustainability ambitions, is already well behind the curve.

However, one recommendation that I am not quite sure hits the mark is the 1p charge per garment to reduce textile waste. This charge is targeting value and volume retailers that already face tough market conditions.

Cheaper product does not always mean throwaway fashion – in many cases it is providing affordable clothing. Equally, if a retailer offers a smaller quantity of more-expensive product, it does not necessarily mean its offer is more sustainable – especially if it then goes on to burn unsold stock. Volume retailers are not the only ones that have been found to have unethical practices. 

sustainable fashion 2019

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Rather than penalising value retailers who will feel the greater impact on already-tight margins, the industry should be treated equally for sustainability failings and achievements and encouraged to work collaboratively on building better supply chains.

The entire fashion industry must make becoming more sustainable a priority. But let’s work as a collective to drive best practice forward.

At our upcoming Drapers Sustainable Fashion event we will turn the spotlight on the positive initiatives retailers and brands have implemented – and show others how they can do the same.

Across the fashion industry, effective plans are being put in place – from becoming more water and energy efficient, to introducing repair and recycling schemes such as take-back programmes, implementing best working practices and conditions and discovering new sustainable materials. Education – of both businesses and consumers – is key to driving the sustainable agenda.

 

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