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MPs ‘shocked’ by UK fashion retailers' inaction on sustainability

By Huw Hughes



MPs have criticised leading UK fast-fashion companies for “failing to commit to reduce environmental impact” within the industry.

A report, released by the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) on Thursday, found that JD Sports, Sports Direct, TK Maxx, Amazon, Boohoo, and Missguided were “least engaged" in their sustainability efforts, with none of them signing up to SCAP (Sustainable Clothing Action Plan) - a plan to reduce their carbon, water and waste footprint - or ACT (Action, Collaboration, Transformation) - an agreement of labour rights and living-wages.

“It’s shocking to see that a group of major retailers are failing to take action to promote environmental sustainability and protect their workers,” EAC Chair Mary Creagh commented in a statement. “It’s disappointing that only a third of the retailers we wrote to are signed up to ACT, an important global initiative working towards getting a living wage for all garment workers."

Next, Debenhams, Arcadia Group and Asda Stores were found to be “moderately engaged”, taking “some steps to address environmental sustainability issues”. All of them except for Next run a ‘take-back scheme’ for discarded clothes, and all of them except for Asda group use organic cotton in their products. Debenhams was also credited by the committee for the range of activities it is involved in.

Fast-fashion companies not doing enough to improve sustainability

Asos, Marks and Spencer, Tesco, Primark, and Burberry were named “most engaged”, with all of them using organic cotton and recycled materials, as well as offering in-store take-back schemes. All of them, except for Burberry, are also members of ACT.

Creagh added: “By publishing this information, customers can choose whether they want to spend money with a company that is doing little to protect the environment or promote proper wages for garment workers. We hope this motivates underperforming retailers to start taking responsibility for their workers and their environmental impact.

“We want to see a thriving fashion industry that employs people fairly, inspires creativity and contributes to the economic success of the UK.”

This news comes as part of a wider investigation by the EAC into sustainability in the fashion industry, as the popularity of fast-fashion continues to rise.

In October 2018, the committee wrote a letter to ten of the UK's leading fashion retailers, asking them to submit evidence to the committee’s inquiry showing the steps they’re taking to reduce the social and environmental impact of their companies.

Last week, as part of EAC’s ongoing investigation, it was revealed that UK-based garment factory owners were forced to pay almost 90,000 pounds for non-payment of minimum wage.

Photo credit: Rawpixel.com, Pexels

Environmental Audit Committee
Fast fashion