The chair of the UK’s Environmental Audit Committee has written to the bosses of several large clothing retailers as part of an investigation into the impact of ‘Fast Fashion’ amid concerns of wastage and clothes dumping.
Mary Creagh MP has written to the heads of companies with large clothing lines, including Marks and Spencer Group PLC (LON:MKS), Primark (owned by Associated British Foods PLC (LON:ABF)), Next PLC (LON:NXT), Tesco PLC (LON:TSCO), Asda, and Sports Direct International PLC (LON:SPD), as part of an investigation into how the UK fashion industry can reduce its environmental footprint.
90% of workers paid below minimum wage
The call comes at a time when the trend of ‘Fast Fashion’, when clothing lines are only designed to last for a few months, has led to an increase in the number of clothes being sold and by extension, the amount of clothing being dumped.
Submissions to the committee have shown that per head of population, the UK consumes 26.7kg of new clothing, the highest in Europe, with 235mln items sent to the landfill last year.
According to a submission from the Institute of Mechanical Engineers, the global fashion industry produced more carbon dioxide emissions in 2015 than international flights and maritime shipping combined.
There is also concern around exploitative employment practices in the garment industry, with the British Retail Consortium telling the committee up to 90% of workers were paid below the national minimum wage.
Burberry turns off the heat after landing in hot water
The developments follow a decision by luxury fashion brand Burberry PLC (LON:BRBY) in September to end its practice of burning unsold luxury goods in its collection following a backlash against its environmental record.
The retailer also decided to stop using real fur such as rabbit, fox, mink and Asiatic racoon in its ranges after receiving criticism from animal rights campaigners.
Burberry confessed in July that it destroyed £28.6mln worth of unwanted items in the financial year to end of March to avoid them being sold at lower prices, which could cheapen the brand.
The issue isn’t just limited to clothing, with Cartier and Montblanc owner Richemont saying it would buy back watches from dealers to prevent overstocking while also recycling the precious stones and metals in its high-end pieces.