Ten leading fashion businesses, including Next, Arcadia Group and Marks & Spencer have been asked to submit evidence to a government inquiry on the sustainability of the fashion industry.
The retailers have been requested to provide information on the steps they are taking to reduce the environmental and social impacts of their businesses, with specific questions probing into manufacturing ethics, recycling, plastic pollution and sustainable practice.
MP Mary Creagh, the chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, which is conducting an inquiry into the sustainability of the UK fashion industry, has made the request by writing directly to the chief executives of the ten largest clothing retailers in the UK.
As part of the ongoing inquiry, the committee revealed details of preliminary evidence already submitted by researchers, industry bodies and retailers. So far the evidence has revealed that the UK consumes a higher rate of new clothing that any other European nation, at 26.7kg per capital.
Research from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) in Leicester also showed that between 70% and 90% of garment workers in the UK sourcing hub are paid below the minimum wage and do not have employment contracts.
Creagh commented: “The way we design, produce and discard our clothes has a huge impact on our planet. Fashion and footwear retailers have a responsibility to minimise their environmental footprint and make sure the workers in their supply chains are paid a living wage. We want to hear what they are doing to make their industry more sustainable.”
Commenting on the government’s request for evidence, Peter Andrews, head of sustainability at the BRC, noted that significant steps had already been made by UK retailers to reduce their negative environmental and social consequences: “Because of the efforts of leading fashion retailers, many of the clothes that we now buy have lower individual environmental impacts. This has been achieved through sourcing more sustainable materials, designing products that are made to last, and encouraging customers to return unwanted clothes for reuse.”
“Looking ahead, we know more needs to be done. Clothing production is a global market place and the best answers to its environmental and social impacts will be achieved with collaborative global actions.”
Adam Mansell, CEO of the UK Fashion and Textile Association, added: “The environmental impact of the fashion industry is an enormous problem but most of the retailers in this list have woken up to the issue and are making some significant strides to mitigating the negative impact.”
The retailers have been given until 12 October to submit evidence, after which some may be called to parliament for further questioning in November.