The government is urged by a multi-party group of MPs to take urgent action to fix disposable fast fashion by supporting the development of lower environmental impact fabrics and strengthening clothing recycling facilities.
After Covid-19 exposed its flaws, industry must follow a more sustainable path to survive, recommends the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) report for ethics and sustainability in fashion.
The pandemic has hit the industry significantly, warns the report titled Making the UK a global leader in sustainable fashion, where supply chains have broken down, sales have plummeted, unsold items have piled up, outlets have closed and businesses have gone out of business. Consumption habits have changed, as have attitudes people want to see changed.
Research produced by the environmental charity Hubbub and released Tuesday with the report found that 65% of UK residents agree the government should urgently do more to reduce the fashion industry’s negative impact on the environment.
MEPs want the government to invest in more research and development to create more sustainable fabrics that have lower environmental and social impact, and to boost textile recycling facilities in the UK. They are also calling for a review of VAT rules which currently allow businesses to destroy unwanted clothing more efficiently than to give it away, and an investment in skills to bring more clothing manufacturing jobs back to the UK.
The coronavirus has exposed deep inequalities and unsustainability in the clothing industry, said Catherine West, president of the APPG and Labor MP for Hornsey and Wood Green. 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 it on all sides. . We must seize this moment by pushing the government to become a world leader, helping to build a more sustainable and ethical fashion industry.
Even before the virus hit, the industry’s environmental and social impact was under public scrutiny, with fast fashion leading to 140m value of clothing sent to landfill each year in the UK.
Despite high rates of donations to charity shops, 300,000 tonnes of clothing ends up in household trash cans each year, 20% of which goes to landfill and 80% is incinerated according to a recent report of the environmental audit committee.
ONS figures show apparel sales fell 34% in March, while online shopping as a proportion of all retailers hit a record 22%, with retailers such as Boohoo plunged into the controversy over staff treatment following a burgeoning Guardian investigation.
High Street victims, meanwhile, include Aldo, Cath Kidston, Debenhams, Laura Ashley, Monsoon Accessorize, Oasis, Quiz and the UK branch of Victorias Secret, all of whom fell under administration.
Market research firm Global Data said in March that the UK clothing industry would be the hardest hit with spending falling by one-fifth (20.6%). Clothing and footwear sales in the UK alone are expected to decline by 11.1 billion.
Manufacturers urged to reassess and rebuild their strategies, although among UK brands highlighted to quickly adapt their supply chains due to the coronavirus include Mulberry, which has racked up 8,000 hospital gowns for staff at the NHS hospital in Bristol, and Mackintosh, who donated to his Lancashire factory to produce nursing uniforms.
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