ETI responds to the release of the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) Report: Fixing fashion: clothing consumption and sustainability.
As the EAC points out, the UK buys more clothes per person than any other country in Europe while globally the fashion sector is reportedly the world’s third biggest manufacturing industry.
Against this backdrop, the EAC details a global industry that consumes uncountable volumes of fresh water and creates massive chemical and plastic pollution. It also charges that labour exploitation is endemic and states, “fast fashion’s overproduction and overconsumption of clothing is based on the globalisation of indifference towards … manual workers.”
ETI previously commented on the Committee’s interim report. At the time, our Director, Peter McAllister said, “Fashion is an industry defined as much by stories of low wages, exploitation and long hours as it is by investment, wealth creation and creativity. This must change.”
ETI’s focus is on labour rights and the Fixing Fashion report emphasises general approaches. We were pleased to see that the companies identified by the EAC as “most engaged” in reducing poor environmental and social impacts are all ETI members. As Peter McAllister says, “this shows the importance of multi-stakeholder action to address systemic issues.”
Specifically, we completely agree that the UK’s Modern Slavery Act should be strengthened, with:
- Government releasing a publicly accessible list of all retailers required to write a Modern Slavery Statement and penalising those who fail to comply.
- Government procurement covered by the Act.
Peter McAllister said: “Following discussions with our members, we are convinced the Committee’s modern slavery recommendations will be warmly welcome by all progressive companies. They are keen to see a level playing field, where all companies adopt a more forward-thinking approach.”
Peter McAllister also welcomed the Committee’s acknowledgement of ETI Base Code standards. “It is important to work towards high global standards,” he said. “ETI’s Base Code sets that standard, has stood the test of time and emphasises the importance of collaboration.”
He continued: “To make the EAC’s recommendations a reality we need to see leadership from industry leaders and from government. Neither should we take our eyes off the prize: an industry that everyone can take pride in for high environmental, labour and sustainability standards.”