A cross-party group of MPs are calling on the heads of fashion brands to disclose the environmental and social impacts of the clothes and shoes they sell.
The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) has written to the chief executives of the UK’s 10 fashion retailers to find out that actions they are taking to reduce the environmental impact of their products and operations as “fast” fashion is harming the planet.
They include Marks and Spencer, Primark, Next, Arcadia, Asda, TK Maxx and Homesense, Tesco, JD Sports Fashion, Debenhams and Sports Direct International.
The request for evidence will inform the Committee’s inquiry into the sustainability of the fashion industry, which is investigating how the UK’s fashion industry – worth £28 billion a year – can reduce its environmental footprint.
The production of clothing involves water and energy intensive processes, resulting in pollution and greenhouse gases and contributing to climate change.
The EAC says it also uses chemical dyes, finishes and coatings, some of which are said to be toxic and when clothes are washed, they release microplastic fibres which make their way into the ocean.
It adds while unwanted and outdated clothing end up in landfill, some charities have complained second hand clothes are exported and dumped on overseas markets.
Statistics reveal Brits are now buying more new clothes than any other European country – almost double compared to Italy, Germany and the Netherlands.
According to a submission from the Institute of Mechanical Engineers, the global fashion industry produced more carbon emissions than international flights and maritime shipping combined in 2015.
The questions the fashion retailers have been asked to respond include whether they use recycled materials, how long clothes are kept and how recycling is encouraged, whether they incinerate unsold or returned stock, what steps they are taking to reduce the risk of microplastics contaminating the ocean and what other steps are being taken to reduce the environmental impact of their clothing ranges and how they audit success.
They also have to respond to whether they are paying the living wage to garment workers and how they ensure child labour is not used in their supply chains.
EAC Chair Mary Creagh MP said: “The way we design, produce and discard our clothes has a huge impact on our planet. Fashion and footwear retailers have a responsibility to minimise their environmental footprint and make sure the workers in their supply chains are paid a living wage. We want to hear what they are doing to make their industry more sustainable.”
The deadline for replies is 12th October 2018.