Fashion – an industry in the environmental spotlight

8th April, 2019

By Chloe Harding

In February, the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee (HCEAC) published its report ‘Fixing Fashion: clothing consumption and sustainability’ subtitled ‘Fashion: it should not cost the earth.’  This follows, by coincidence rather than design I suspect, the attention drawn to the fashion industry through the powerful documentary by Stacey Dooley ‘Are your clothes wrecking the planet?’, which drew our attention to, and reminded us of the environmental impact of our fashion buying habits.

Why this blog?

I write this blog in part because I care (as a young person and a consumer), but also because I am aware that we have a number of clients engaged in clothes production, and within this sector and the wider business community, there is a growing awareness that putting sustainability first and centre is good for the environment and also good for business. This is a subject that we have previously blogged on, and our post can be found here – “A Shift to a Sustainable Economy is Crucial” ; “Going Green is good business” and “B Corps – a blog post for the uninitiated”.

The House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee report

“Whilst fashion shouldn’t be unaffordable, sustainability is key” is one of main themes of the HCEAC report.

It says that an emphasis has been placed on social responsibility within fashion, regarding exploitation and the use of children in the labour force for producing clothing all over the world – but it also suggests that some workers in the UK are not receiving minimum wage when working in the clothes manufacturing industry.

However, this isn’t the only concern raised in the report…

The report highlights the pressing issue of over-consumption and climate change. Interestingly, (and frighteningly), the HCEAC report states that the water footprint of clothes used in the UK was eight billion cubic metres, with the global total reaching a staggering 79 billion cubic metres. As a result, it is suggested that there needs to be a new ‘economic model for fashion’, as a reaction to the effect of climate change.

Boosting the second hand market is one idea covered in the HCEAC report, with the encouragement of sites such as Depop being used by retailers. This could result in overall decline in new production; new production being the main user of natural resources, including water.

Full text of HCEAC report can be found here.

Implications?

Our ‘Your FC – December 2018‘ Magazine featured an article “Swimwear from Waste” – a case study on Davy J, “an active women’s swimwear brand with a difference – all the suits are made from waste. The ground breaking start- up company uses nylon for its suits which is 100% regenerated from waste such as fishing nets, carpet off cuts and plastic scraps.”  This article is an interesting and inspiring read and I would suggest it is a sign of a future direction for the fashion/ clothes.

This is supported by the findings of the HCEAC report that states there is already a significant increase (19.9% in 2018) in the ethical clothing market, with a surge of fashion manufacturing incorporating recycled materials such as plastic bottles.

I am aware that at least one business local to me engaged in the fashion/ clothes sector, Finisterre has achieved B Corp status.  This was publicised last year in a number of articles including this one.  Further demonstrating the awareness of sustainability as an issue but also as a selling point.

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