COMMONS

Government rejects recommendations to force fashion industry pay to clean up its act

18 June 2019

The Environmental Audit Committee publishes the Government Response to its Fixing Fashion Report: Clothing Consumption and Sustainability. The report published in February called on the Government to end the era of throwaway fashion through wide-ranging recommendations covering environmental and labour market practices. All of which have been rejected.

Environmental Audit Committee Chair Mary Creagh MP said:

“Fashion producers should be forced to clear up the mountains of waste they create. The Government has rejected our call, demonstrating that it is content to tolerate practices that trash the environment and exploit workers despite having just committed to net zero emission targets.

“The Government is out of step with the public who are shocked by the fact that we are sending 300,000 tonnes of clothes a year to incineration or landfill. Ministers have failed to recognise that urgent action must be taken to change the fast fashion business model which produces cheap clothes that cost the earth.”

On workers’ rights Mary Creagh said:

“We presented the Government with the evidence that it has failed to stop garment workers in this country being criminally underpaid, despite its claim that the number of national minimum wage inspectors has increased.

“The public has a right to know that the clothes they buy are not produced by children or forced labour, however the Government hasn’t accepted our recommendations on the Modern Slavery Act to force fashion retailers to increase transparency in their supply chains.
“This is plain wrong. The EAC will be closely monitoring steps that the Government claims it is taking to address the problems exposed in our report.”

Government’s Response to Fixing Fashion Report’s key recommendations:

  • A new Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) scheme to reduce textile waste with a one penny charge per garment on producers.
    Not accepted. Government notes EAC’s one penny per garment recommendation and will consider in development of new Extended Producer Responsibility Schemes. No detail on when EPR scheme for textiles will be introduced; consultation could run as late as 2025.
  • Ban on incinerating or landfilling unsold stock that can be reused or recycled.
    Rejected. Government considers positive approaches are required to find outlets for waste textiles rather than simply imposing a landfill ban.
  • Mandatory environmental targets for fashion retailers with a turnover above £36 million.
    Not accepted. Government points to environmental savings made by a voluntary industry-led programme but fails to address evidence from WRAP that the impact of increased volumes of clothing being sold outweighs efficiency savings made on carbon and water.
  • The fashion industry must come together to set out their blueprint for a net zero emissions world, reducing their carbon consumption back to 1990 levels.
    Not accepted. Government points to support for the voluntary Sustainable Clothing Action Plan (SCAP), co-ordinated by WRAP with the industry working towards targets to reduce carbon emissions, water and waste.
  • The scheme should reward fashion companies that design products with lower environmental impacts and penalise those that do not.
    Not accepted. Govt will focus on tax on single-use plastic in packaging, not clothing.
  • The report calls on the Government to use the tax system to shift the balance of incentives in favour of reuse, repair and recycling to support responsible fashion companies.
    Not accepted.
  • The Government should follow Sweden's lead and reduce VAT on repair services.
    It says little evidence a VAT reduction has been effective in Sweden or that savings have been passed on to consumers.
  • More proactive approach to enforcement of the National Minimum Wage with greater resourcing for HMRC’s National Minimum Wage team to increase inspection and detection work.
    Government says HMRC and other enforcement agencies already taking more proactive approach with increase in budget and officers dedicated to NMW enforcement.
  • The Government should publish a publicly accessible list of retailers required to release a modern slavery statement. This should be supported by an appropriate penalty for those companies who fail to report and comply with the Modern Slavery Act.
    No recommendations relating to modern slavery have been adopted.

Further information

Image: Rita Platts

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