On the 1st May 2019, the UK Parliament declared an environment and climate emergency.
Extensive protests had been leading up to this motion to be passed, with key groups such as Extinction Rebellion and young activist Greta Thunberg pathing the way for all of us citizens to use our voice and be heard above all other noise.
Running alongside these protests was the Environmental Audit Committee, which have been conducting an inquiry into the Sustainability of the Fashion Industry in the UK since 2018, chaired by former MP Mary Creagh.
The panel spent a huge portion of 2018 gathering evidence on everything from how fashion is produced, to the ways we’re discarding clothing in our current throwaway fashion culture, with the aim of encouraging the government to bring in more regulation.
The inquiry gathered evidence about fashion’s environmental impact, and social issues such as modern slavery.
The Committee wrote to 16 UK fashion retailers and 4 online retailers, asking what steps they are taking to reduce the environment and social impact of the garments they sell.
This includes a separate letter to Burberry and Kurt Geiger after the public announcement of the incineration of stock.
Chair Mary Creagh was fierce in her execution and questioning during the hearings.
I was there for the public inquiry at the V&A and I believe it was the biggest turnout from citizens to any public government inquiry., which says a lot.
The government announced their 25 Year Environment Plan in 2019 – so you would think this inquiry came at an ideal time.
Currently, textile production is a major contributor to climate change.
It produces 1.2 billion tonnes of CO2 per year – more than aviation & shipping combined.
The total carbon footprint of clothing in the UK is growing and if fashion continues on its current path, it could use more than 26% of the global carbon budget associated with a 2°C pathway by 2050, according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.
In February 2019, the Environmental Audit Committee submitted their 18 recommendations which the government need to take a stance on to step regulations and legalisation for our Fashion industry in the UK.
You would think that the 25 Year Environment Plan would include plans for more legalisation of the bad practices in fashion which contribute to rising emissions, as the Government aims to hit their own zero-net emissions target.
However, in June 2019, The UK Government responded to the Fixing Fashion Report by REJECTING all 18 recommendations.
The key recommendations in the report were:
- A new Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) scheme to reduce textile waste with a one penny charge per garment on producers
- A ban on incinerating or landfilling unsold stock that can be reused or recycled
- Mandatory environmental targets for fashion retailers with a turnover above £36 million
- 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 scheme should reward fashion companies that design products with lower environmental impacts and penalise those that do not
- The Government should follow Sweden’s lead and reduce VAT on repair services
- A more proactive approach to enforcement of the National Minimum Wage with greater resourcing for HMRC’s National Minimum Wage team to increase inspection and detection work
- The Government should publish a publicly accessible list of retailers required to release a modern slavery statement. This should be supported by an appropriate penalty for those companies who fail to report and comply with the Modern Slavery Act
So there you have it.
A clear message of ‘ Government says NO!’
If you get the chance to read the response report, they have tried to state that other measures are in place which follow a similar line to the committee’s recommendations – but clearly they aren’t working,.
With zero legalisation in place, only voluntary contributions from retailers is required.
Now our Government has been through a General Election in December 2019, it’s more important than ever to get this inquiry back on the table.
So, what’s next?
What can we do to challenge the status quo?
How can we, as citizens, be proactive in getting heard?
Here are a few things we can do:
- PURCHASE better. You dictate what is being sold to us. So if there are needs and a wants, ‘they’ will feed the demand. Take a step back and make better choices when it comes to your wardrobe. Shop second hand, if you are to buy new, buy better from ethical brands and retail platforms who have clean, green, ethical supply chains. There is a fab one called mi apparel #ShamelessSelfPromotion
- SUPPORT Campaigns. I’m a huge fan of Fashion Revolution! Start questioning brands in-store and via social media with hashtags such as #WhoMadeMyClothes. Join the Clean Clothes Campaign – a global alliance dedicated to improving working conditions and empowering workers in the global garment and sportswear industries. If you want to know more about our policies vs. fashion within our government, The Fashion Roundtable is a dedicated link for fashion, consumers, policymakers, and as secretariat to the all-party parliamentary group for textiles and fashion they able to drive forward sustainable and long term business solutions which support all of the fashion industry.
- VOTE for our planet, our people. When we vote in our local, general & EU elections have you taken a step back and read the parties actual ‘GREEN’ manifesto? have they got one? does it stack up to anything? We are currently in a climate emergency and if you have been hiding under a pile of nylon based clothing it’s pretty important that we need to make this policy a forefront agenda, so we can start taking real actions to reduce our climate emissions to safeguard our planet from destruction.
- WRITE to your Government. The Fashion Revolution team have set out simple templates as does Fashion Roundtable, to sign, forward on to our Prime Minister, local MPs, all of our elected officials via your social platforms, email or post.
We are the biggest thing we own, so let’s use it! Our voice, our power, our actions. These all together are more valuable than you think.
Words – Kate Auguste owner & founder of MI