Developing sustainable fabrics, boosting fabric recycling and bringing manufacturing jobs back to the UK are some of the key recommendations put forward to the Government today in a new report from the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Ethics and Sustainability in Fashion, supported by environmental charity Hubbub.
The report sets out how the sector could follow a more sustainable route and the role that government and consumers might play.
Covid-19 has significantly hit the fashion industry. Supply chains have broken, sales have dropped, unsold stock has built, retail outlets have closed and companies have gone out of business. Consumer habits have shifted and so have attitudes – the public wants to see change.
Before the virus struck, the environmental and social impact of the industry was increasingly under public scrutiny. Fast fashion resulted in £140 million worth of clothing being sent to landfill every year in the UK. Whilst charity shop donation rates are high, 300,000 tonnes of clothing still ends up in household bins every year with around 20% of this going to landfill and 80% incinerated (EAC, ‘Fixing Fashion’). The industry’s carbon dioxide emissions were expected to rise to nearly 2.8 billion tonnes by 2030.
The 2019 House of Commons Environment Audit Select Committee report ‘Fixing Fashion: clothing consumption and sustainability’, found that textile production accounted for 20-35% of microplastics in the oceans as well as toxicity in the land and particles in the air. The government rejected certain recommendations and felt that the rest were covered, to some degree, in the 2018 Resource and Waste Strategy published 2 months prior to the Fixing Fashion report.
New research released today by Hubbub shows 65% of UK residents agree that the Government should urgently do more to reduce the impact of the fashion industry on the environment.
The APPG report calls for the following actions by Government:
- Investing in research and development to create more sustainable fabrics that have a lower environmental and social impact – backed by 66% of the public.
- Boosting investment in UK fabric recycling facilities to create a more circular economy – backed by 73% of the public.
- Supporting new start-up businesses operating more green business models – backed by 74% of the public.
- Investing in skills to bring more clothes manufacturing jobs back to the UK – backed by 72% of the public
- Supporting industry to create clearer information and labelling about the sustainability of clothes helping to educate consumers about their everyday choices and force companies to change their approach – backed by 64% of the public.
Catherine West MP, chair of the APPG, said:
“Coronavirus has exposed deep inequalities and unsustainability in the garment industry. Creating a sustainable and ethical future for the fashion industry is an important but complex challenge for government, industry and the public and what is clear is that there is an appetite for this on all sides. We must seize this moment and put these recommendations into action by pushing the government to be a global leader, helping to build a more sustainable and ethical fashion industry, both within the UK and globally”.
The APPG report includes further recommendations for actions by the fashion industry and the survey found that consumers want to see change from industry. 65% agreed they’d be happy for fashion to ‘slow down”, ie less production of mass-produced cheap clothing in favour of good quality clothing that will last, and a third (33%) of 16-24 year olds feel constant pressure to buy new clothes. Three quarters (75%) of respondents agree that clothing companies have a responsibility to look after the people who make their products.
The report also highlights that citizens have a crucial role in holding government and businesses to account in the post COVID-19 rebuild. 52% of those polled said they would be willing to spend a little more on clothes if they were guaranteed to be made ethically in the UK supporting British workers and 49% would be willing to spend a little more on clothes if they were guaranteed to be less impactful on the environment.
Trewin Restorick, Founder and CEO of Hubbub, said:
“Now is the time for government intervention to fix fast fashion and force companies to change their approach. We hope both the Government and the fashion industry will act with urgency on the recommendations of the APPG, which are backed by the UK public. As we’ve set out in our Greenprint, a more just and sustainable approach to how we dress, live, eat and travel is needed as we ‘build back better’, which builds greater long-term resilience. It’s important for all of us to play our part by making individual small changes and choosing where we spend our money.”
Hubbub’s tips for individuals to slow their fashion consumption can be found at www.hubbub.org.uk/sustainable-fashion