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Why retailers must act now on sustainability

Peter Maddox, director of sustainable intiative WRAP (Waste and Resources Action Programme) UK, explains why consumers are waking up to the power of sustainability

The public and the media are showing a growing interest in the environmental impact of clothing. TV presenter Stacey Dooley’s BBC documentary, Fashion’s Dirty Secret, may not have had the wide-ranging impact of David Attenborough’s amazing Blue Planet 2 series, but it struck a chord and it was not a one-off.

Dooley asked: “Do we really need all these new clothes?” I’d add to that: “What can we do to make those new clothes more sustainable?”

This really matters. Clothing is the eighth-largest sector in the UK in terms of household spending and comes fourth in terms of its impact on the environment, behind only housing, transport and food.

As well as bearing down throughout the value chain on the environmental footprint of new clothing, retailers, brands and manufacturers must also address the recyclability and reuse of clothing that is no longer wanted.

The Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) recently held a conference for retailers and other businesses who have signed up to the voluntary Sustainable Clothing Action Plan 2020 (SCAP). Signatories, who include Arcadia Group, Asos, F&F and Ted Baker, deserve credit for being the early adopters of a holistic approach that addresses the entire lifecycle of textiles and clothing.

SCAP 2020 signatories are outpacing the UK clothing sector as a whole in reducing carbon, water and waste footprints. But the signatories are far from complacent and there was universal acceptance there is still much to do.

Even so, the signatories are looking beyond the end of their current commitment that runs to 2020. Decisions about the new clothes of tomorrow are starting to be made today.

So it is crucial that – together – we all make a concerted effort to ensure the right business actions are taken to achieve greater sustainability in the clothing sector.

sustainable fashion 2019

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