The UK Government Is Naming And Shaming Shady Fast Fashion Retailers

by: Lucy Jones | 1 year ago | News

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The UK Government's inquiry into the fast fashion industry has confirmed that it is terrible for people and the planet. Last year, the Environmental Audit Committee asked 16 online retailers including Boohoo, Misguided, ASOS and Amazon to provide them with information about their production processes. Some of these companies also appeared before parliament to answer questions about their low price points, the quality of their products, clothing waste and the working conditions in their factories. The EAC was not impressed with the evidence these companies gave, and they have released a damming Interim Report on the Sustainability of the Fashion Industry. Most brands that were investigated by the government are failing to protect the environment or their workers.

"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," the report concludes.

"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."

The worst offenders were JD Sports, Sports Direct, TK Maxx, Amazon UK, Boohoo and Missguided, which were identified as the  "least engaged" in environmental and social issues. None of these companies use organic or sustainable cotton and only two of them — Boohoo and Sports Direct — use recycled material in their products. Five out of the six companies do not offer an in-store take-back scheme either.

All six brands have failed to sign an industry-wide initiative to reduce their carbon, waste and water footprints. They also have not agreed to participate in the Action, Collaboration, Transformation living wage initiative. Online fast fashion retailer Misguided is the only brand of the six that is part of the Ethical Trading Initiative.

“We want to see a thriving fashion industry that employs people fairly, inspires creativity and contributes to the economic success of the UK,” said EAC chair Mary Creagh. “It’s shocking to see that a group of major retailers are failing to take action to promote environmental sustainability and protect their workers.”

The report found that Next, Debenhams, Arcadia Group and Asda Stores are all “moderately engaged” with these issues and ASOS, Marks & Spencer, Tesco, Primark and Burberry are the “most engaged”.

The EAC will publish all of its findings over the coming weeks and put forward policy recommendations to government aimed at creating a more transparent, fair and sustainable fashion industry. By naming and shaming shady fast fashion companies, government officials hope that they will encourage these brands to clean up their act.

“By publishing this information, customers can choose whether they want to spend money with a company that is doing little to protect the environment or promote proper wages for garment workers,” said Creagh. “We hope this motivates under-performing retailers to start taking responsibility for their workers and their environmental impact.”

We hope so too.

You can read the EAC's Interim Report on the Sustainability of the Fashion Industry in full here.

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