Last June, somewhere between the heatwave and the football World Cup, the Environmental Audit Committee launched a ground-breaking and important inquiry into the sustainability of the fashion industry in the UK.
Over the next 6 months, brands, retailers, experts and campaigners, including Eco-Age creative director Livia Firth, each took turns in the witness seats, submitting evidence to Mary Creagh MP’s committee in front of an eager public audience.
In February, the EAC released its findings of the inquiry in its Fixing Fashion Report – concluding what many of us working in the industry knew already but were happy to see highlighted: “The way we make, use and throw away our clothes is unsustainable.” After considering both the environmental and social cost of our clothes; textile waste and collection (the inquiry found that we buy more clothes per person in the UK than any other country in Europe); and new economic models for the fashion industry, the Committee set forward some promising recommendations to government that would improve the way that clothes are designed, made, retailed, used, and disposed of – which in turn would help protect those working in the industry and be better for our environment.
We were jubilant! The fast fashion model has significant and devastating environmental and social impact (watch The True Cost Movie to learn more about this), and after years of campaigning, this report signified a stepping stone to stricter government intervention that would hold brands and manufacturers accountable for their actions.
Today, however, our jubilation turned to disappointment as the Government finally issued its response to the report – rejecting every one of the Committee’s recommendations that would force the fashion industry to clean up its act.
There was no government-led action of legislation, solutions to environmental problems were rejected, despite the government committing to net zero emission targets just this month, and no promise of strengthening the Modern Slavery Act to increase transparency of supply chains.
“I would like to say that I am surprised by the Government’s decision to totally reject the findings of the Environmental Audit Committee to improve the fashion industry’s environmental impact,” says Livia.
“Sadly this only confirms my belief in a Government which has no intention to take this country forward into a sustainable future. I am deeply grateful to the environmental audit committee for the work they have carried so far and which we will all keep doing with or without the government’s support.”