The government has rejected all recommendations made by the environmental audit committee’s report on the sustainability of the fashion industry.
The report, published in February, called on the government to “end the era of throwaway fashion” through multiple recommendations covering environmental and labour market practices, including introducing a 1p charge on each item of clothing to pay for better clothing collection and recycling.
All of the recommendations were rejected.
Environmental audit committee chair Mary Creagh MP said: “Fashion producers should be forced to clear up the mountains of waste they create. The government has rejected our call, demonstrating that it is content to tolerate practices that trash the environment and exploit workers despite having just committed to net zero emission targets.
“The government is out of step with the public who are shocked by the fact that we are sending 300,000 tonnes of clothes a year to incineration or landfill. Ministers have failed to recognise that urgent action must be taken to change the fast fashion business model which produces cheap clothes that cost the earth.”
On workers’ rights Creagh added: “We presented the government with the evidence that it has failed to stop garment workers in this country being criminally underpaid, despite its claim that the number of national minimum wage inspectors has increased.
“The public has a right to know that the clothes they buy are not produced by children or forced labour, however the government hasn’t accepted our recommendations on the Modern Slavery Act to force fashion retailers to increase transparency in their supply chains.
“This is plain wrong. The committee will closely monitor steps that the government claims it is taking to address the problems exposed in our report.”
The government said it will consider the report’s 1p per garment recommendation when it is developing new Extended Producer Responsibility schemes but provided no detail on when the scheme will be introduced. Consultation could run as late as 2025.
The government said it would not impose a landfill ban for unsold stock.
When challenged that the fashion industry must come together to set out their blueprint for a net zero-emissions world, reducing their carbon consumption back to 1990 levels, the government said it rejected this, and pointed to support for the voluntary Sustainable Clothing Action Plan (SCAP), co-ordinated by WRAP (Waste and Resources Action Programme) with the industry working towards targets to reduce carbon emissions, water and waste.
On the recommendation that the scheme should reward fashion companies that design products with lower environmental impacts and penalise those that do not, the government said it will focus on tax on single-use plastic in packaging, not clothing.
The government’s failure to adopt the recommendations will come as a blow to the fashion industry, which is looking for support for its efforts to become more sustainable.
Exclusive Drapers research, published two weeks ago, found that most (92.2%) fashion retail businesses felt there was a commercial imperative to become more sustainable and 91.6% had noted growing interest in sustainability from their customers.
It found widespread support for the recommendations of the environmental audit committee, and respondents called on government for support, in the form of incentives and sanctions. Read Drapers’ research here.
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The event is for fashion brands and retailers, clothes manufacturers, supply chain experts, innovators and anybody for whom sustainability matters. We are creating a programme of hard-hitting talks, projects showcasing sustainability in action, and start-up innovation that is pushing the boundaries of the possible.