UK Government Is Investigating ASOS And Amazon Over Fast Fashion's Sustainability

by: Lucy Jones | 1 year ago | News

ASOS warehouse stock piled outside during a factory fire. Image source

The UK government is coming for online fast fashion retailers. As part of their investigation into the sustainability of the fashion industry, the Environment Audit Committee has written to Boohoo, Missguided, ASOS, Amazon and PrettyLittleThing requesting information about their production processes. The companies will need to provide information about staff wages, the average life-cycle of their garments, the steps they are taking to reduce the environmental and social impact of their product, the recycled materials they use, the action they are taking to encourage reuse or repair of clothing and the quality of their product. They have also been asked whether they educate suppliers about the cost of labour in the UK and if they incinerate any unsold and returned stock. This should be very, very interesting considering that these companies have come under fire in the past for destroying unsold product, treating their workers poorly, and their environmentally irresponsible business models

"The Committee heard shocking evidence this week in Parliament that the buying practices of some online fashion retailers may be putting UK clothing manufacturers in a position where they can only afford to pay garment workers illegally low wages," the letter reads.

"Concerns were also raised about the low-quality of some 'fast fashion' garments and the excessive waste that this business model is generating."

The Committee has requested that the companies respond to the letter by November 15. Lawmakers also said that some companies will be asked to appear in parliament to give evidence.

The chair of the UK government's Environmental Audit Committee, Mary Creagh, said that evidence industry experts supplied to the Committee last month "raised alarm bells about the fast growing online-only retail sector."

"Low quality £5 dresses aimed at young people are said to be made by workers on illegally low wages and are discarded almost instantly, causing mountains of non-recycled waste to pile up," she said.

"We will be calling some of these online retailers in front of the Committee to answer questions, but in the meantime, my letters encourage them to face up to the social and environmental consequences of their business models. We want to know that they are fully compliant with employment law, that garments have a decent life-span, and that profit is not put before environmental damage."

The information provided by these companies will factor into the Committee's upcoming policy recommendations. These recommendations will be focused on reducing the environmental and social harm caused by the fast fashion industry.

So far, Missguided and ASOS are the only companies to confirm that they will be complying with the government's demands for information.

“We’ll be writing to the committee. While we’re a relatively small player in UK fashion, we’re very proud of what we’ve been doing through our membership of the Ethical Trading Initiative to address industry issues,” Missguided said in a statement.

In an email to CNBC, an ASOS spokesperson said: "ASOS is looking forward to co-operating with the committee."

Amazon and Boohoo, which owns PrettyLittleThing, have both declined to comment.

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