5 Key Points from the EAC Report “Fixing Fashion”
“Fashion shouldn’t cost the earth.” So true. While we wish we’d written this snappy nugget of wisdom ourselves, we’ve actually lifted it from this year's Environmental Audit Committee’s (EAC) report, “Fixing Fashion: Clothing Consumption and Sustainability.” The EAC report is an important step towards acknowledging all the problems with the current state of the fashion industry (and offering solutions). If parliamentary stats, facts and jargon really get you going, you can read our detailed response to the EAC report here. If you’re more of a spark notes kind of guy or gal, read on.
Here are the 5 key points of the EAC Report:
1. Fashion is Broken
The rise of fast fashion means that people are buying a lot more (and a lot more often). Clothes are cheaper and they don’t last as long. Why is this a problem? Because garment production is happening on a much larger scale than it ever has before, and it’s only growing. It’s hurting the environment and it’s resulting in the exploitation of cheap labour. Also, it’s creating a lot of waste. Neither the UK Government nor fashion retailers are doing enough to negate these consequences. All these factors mean that “the fashion industry’s current business model is unsustainable.” In other words, fashion is broken. So what does the EAC report recommend we do about it?
2. We Need to Reform the Modern Slavery Act
Among a series of recommendations the EAC report makes to prevent labour exploitation, the most important is reforming the Modern Slavery Act of 2014. The Act currently requires companies to report how they are avoiding illegal labour in their supply chains. They’re also allowed to say if they’re doing nothing to avoid illegal labour in their supply chains. There’s concern that no one really monitors these reports or penalises companies based on them. On top of that, the penalties are not harsh enough to actually deter companies from unethical sources of cheap labour. The EAC report recommends that the Government “strengthen” the Modern Slavery Act. That means a greater level of transparency, more monitoring of reports and more fining of companies that don’t comply.
3. The Sustainable Clothing Action Plan Should Be Mandatory
The Sustainable Clothing Action Plan (SCAP) is a voluntary framework for fashion companies aiming to reduce their environmental impact (including CO2 emissions, water waste / pollution and land destruction). Both natural and synthetic fibres have major environmental impacts (in different ways) and SCAP aims to limit these effects. The EAC report recommends that SCAP targets be made mandatory for companies with a turnover of over £36 million (in line with the Modern Slavery Act). It also recommends that SCAP targets become more ambitious and more focused on production and supply chains rather than just what happens to unwanted garments.
4. An Extended Producer Responsibility Scheme (and Penny Tax) is a Good Idea
The Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) scheme proposed here basically means that companies will be responsible for all the waste they generate. This will, presumably make them want to generate less waste. The scheme would also include a levy of 1p per garment produced which would create around £35 million a year to invest in textile recycling infrastructure. Currently, tonnes of garments every year end up in landfills or incinerated. Textile recyclers have gone bankrupt because they cannot keep up with the oversupply of disposed garments. Investing in textile recycling infrastructure would be a positive step towards reducing waste. Also, France did a similar EPR in 2007, and it worked.
5. The Sharing Economy Can Massively Reduce Waste
A circular economy means that we don’t just make—use—dispose, but rather consistently recycle and reuse resources as long as possible. That’s the ideal behind new economic sharing models which involve hiring, swapping or subscribing to clothes services. The EAC report recommends these models because they still give you the endorphin high you get from buying new things, but there’s significantly less waste generated.
It’s awesome that the Government is recognising the sustainability problems with the fashion industry. It would be even more awesome if they followed through on the recommendations they make here. Reports are good, but legislation is better. So let’s make sure we hold policymakers accountable. Because there’s nothing worse than being ghosted by our Governmental committees. Let’s make sure we follow through on this. Let’s fix fashion.
And if you want more stats and facts (who doesn’t?), check out our full summary of the report here.