As Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Ethics & Sustainability in Fashion, I was delighted to launch our new report yesterday.
Before the virus struck, the environmental and social impact of the industry was increasingly under public scrutiny. Fast fashion resulted in £140 million of clothing being sent to landfill every year in the UK. Whilst charity shop donation rates are high, 300,000 tonnes of clothing still end up in household bins every year with around 20% of this going to landfill and 80% incinerated. The industry’s carbon dioxide emissions were expected to rise to nearly 2.8 billion tonnes by 2030.
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.
The 2019 House of Commons Environment Audit Select Committee report ‘Fixing Fashion’ 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.
The new APPG report calls for government to reassess their approach and to support the industry as it seeks to rebuild from the impact of COVID-19 in a way that is more just and sustainable.
New research released today by Hubbub shows that the majority of the public would support such action with 65% of UK residents agreeing that the government should urgently do more to reduce the impact of the fashion industry on the environment.
The APPG report calls for government to:
- Invest in research and development to create more sustainable fabrics that have a lower environmental and social impact – backed by 66% of the public.
- Boost investment in UK fabric recycling facilities to create a more circular economy – backed by 73% of the public.
- Support new start-up businesses operating more green business models – backed by 74% of the public.
- Invest in skills to bring more clothes manufacturing jobs back to the UK – backed by 72% of the public
- Support 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.
The report highlights how the industry can play its’ part in the transformation and that these steps would have public backing. 65% of people said they’d be happy for fashion to ‘slow down”, i.e. less production of mass-produced cheap clothing in favour of good quality clothing that will last, and a third of 16-24 year olds feel constant pressure to buy new clothes. Three quarters of respondents agree that clothing companies have a responsibility to look after the people who make their products.
Citizens can hold 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.