Six UK Fashion Retailers fail to cotton on to Sustainability

Article from The Guardian


Audit committee singles out firms who take no action to reduce impact on environment

Major UK fashion retailers are failing to promote environmental sustainability or to protect their workers, a parliamentary committee has said.

The six companies, which include Amazon UK, JD Sports, Sports Direct and TK Maxx, have not taken any action to reduce their carbon, water and waste footprint. None of them use organic or sustainable cotton and only two – Sports Direct and Boohoo – use recycled material in their products.

The interim report by the environmental audit committee singles out Amazon UK for its notable lack of engagement in sustainability.

It said: “Though Amazon and TK Maxx are subsidiaries of international corporations that manage their initiatives, the committee believes this does not absolve them of their responsibilities.”

None of the six retailers singled out as the least engaged, have signed up to the Action, Collaboration, Transformation living wage initiative (Act) or to voluntary targets in the Sustainable Clothing Action Plan to reduce the carbon, water and waste footprint of UK firms.

The committee wrote to 16 leading UK fashion retailers in autumn after revelations that Burberry burned £28.6m worth of unused products in 2017 to protect its brand and prevent excess stock from being sold at knockdown prices. The committee said it welcomed a commitment by Burberry to end its burning of unsold stock.

Its report said Next, Debenhams, Arcadia Group and Asda Stores were “moderately engaged”, while Asos, Marks & Spencer, Tesco, Primark and Burberry were the “most engaged” in addressing issues of sustainability and fair wages. Kurt Geiger did not respond to requests for written evidence.

Mary Creagh, the Labour chair of the committee, said: “It’s shocking to see that a group of major retailers are failing to take action to promote environmental sustainability and protect their workers.

“It’s disappointing that only a third of the retailers we wrote to are signed up to Act, an important global initiative working towards getting a living wage for all garment workers.”

She said she hoped the report would motivate underperforming retailers to start taking responsibility for their workers and their environmental impact.
The report concluded that the business model for the UK fashion industry was unsustainable. It said exploitative practices must end and that retailers must lead change.

The final report will be published in the coming weeks, setting out recommendations to government.