Your browser is no longer supported. For the best experience of this website, please upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Dresses top offender for throwaway fashion

A sustainable fashion initiative has put women’s dresses at the top of a hit list of garments that cause the most damage to the environment.

More than 75 signatories and supporters – including Marks & Spencer, Tesco and Sainsbury’s – representing nearly 60% of UK clothing sales by volume, have signed up to the Sustainable Clothing Action Plan 2020 Commitment (SCAP) initiative set up by sustainable fashion charity Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP).

In a new report the organisation has drawn up a target list for retailers of garments whose manufacture is most damaging and which have the shortest lifespan. It claims that women’s dresses have the highest environmental costs in terms of manufacturing, and sell in the largest volumes.

Women’s jeans were also singled out for the amount of water used during their production.

This is followed by women’s jumpers and men’s T-shirts and jumpers.

WRAP estimates that extending the lifetime of 50% of UK clothing by nine months would save 8% carbon, 10% water and 4% waste, on a per-tonne basis.

It suggested that retailers can also develop customer loyalty by improving product durability.

Roz Adams, technical and product compliance manager at Whistles, which is a signatory, said: “Looking at durability as a commercial issue has enabled us to engage teams across the company and to make significant and measurable changes to our systems. This will ensure we offer longer-lasting products to our customers.”

As part of the initiative, Marks & Spencer has committed to switch to 100% sustainable cotton by 2019, while both Tesco and Sainsbury’s have set a target of using 100% sustainable cotton by 2020.

However, WRAP is calling for more retailers to set goals of 70% sustainable cotton by 2020.

Primark is the latest retailer to sign up to the SCAP initiative to reduce the environmental footprint of its clothing. Others include Asda, Asos, Arcadia, Ted Baker, Next and JoJo Maman Bébé.

As part of the agreement, these retailers report on the carbon, water and waste footprints of their clothing every year.

The latest figures show that between 2012 and 2015, its signatories achieved a 10.6% reduction in carbon, per tonne of clothing, against its 2020 target of 15%. They have also reached a 13.5% reduction in water and 0.8% in waste, against similar goals.


Top five most polluting garments

  • · Women’s dresses
  • · Women’s jeans
  • · Women’s jumpers
  • · Men’s t-shirts
  • · Men’s jumpers

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.