UK Fashion Industry is Unsustainable and must Change: Parliamentary Inquiry produces interim report

In October we contributed to the Parliamentary Inquiry on the sustainability of the Fashion Industry (see blog post below).The Inquiry has now produced its interim report

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Parliamentary Inquiry Interim Report Summary

1.As part of our inquiry into the sustainability of the fashion industry, we heard evidence outlining the urgent need for the fashion industry to address its labour market and environmental sustainability issues. In autumn 2018 we wrote to sixteen leading UK fashion retailers to ask what steps they are taking to reduce the environmental and social impact of the clothes and shoes they sell. We used data on market share published by Global Data in its industry report, The UK Clothing Market, 2018–2023 to identify the top ten fashion retailers. We also asked four leading online retailers to answer similar questions following evidence at our first hearing about illegally low wages for garment workers and the disposability of some ‘fast fashion’ garments. Several of these retailers had been named in evidence linked to low pay in Leicester but the committee also used data on ‘share of voice’ compiled by Pi Datametrics. In addition, we wrote to two leading luxury UK fashion brands, Burberry and Kurt Geiger, following reports of stock burning by luxury brands.1

2.We were impressed with the level of engagement by some retailers. Others expressed openness to engaging on these issues and have taken some small steps. A few retailers, unfortunately, do not seem to consider social and environmental responsibility as a priority. One, Kurt Geiger, did not reply at all. We acknowledge that some retailers have not signed up to the specific initiatives which we have considered but are taking other measures to address these issues within their organisations.

3.We believe that there is scope for retailers to do much more to tackle labour market and environmental sustainability issues. We are disappointed that so few retailers are showing leadership through engagement with industry initiatives.

4.This is an interim report on the sustainability of the fashion industry. We will publish a final report shortly.

see more of the interim report here

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Parliamentary Inquiry Interim Conclusion

34.We want to see a thriving fashion industry in the UK that employs people, inspires creativity and contributes to the overall economic success of the UK. We are surprised that there is no one body that speaks for the UK textile industry. The fashion industry’s current business model is clearly unsustainable, especially with a growing middle-class population and rising levels of consumption across the globe. We are disappointed that few high street and online fashion retailers are taking significant steps to improve their environmental sustainability. The current exploitative and environmentally damaging model for fashion must change. We believe retailers have an obligation to engage with these issues and recommend that they show leadership through engagement with industry initiatives. We will publish a final report in the coming weeks setting out recommendations to Government for policies to encourage a more transparent, fair and sustainable fashion system.

1 Global Data, (July 2018) The UK Clothing Market 2018–2023; Pi Datametrics, (October 2018), Q3, Pi Leaderboard Report, UK, Fashion Retail, September 2015 – October 2018.

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