Impacts of fast fashion investigated by parliamentary committee

Representatives of major fashion retailers were defending their positions in parliament in November as part of the Environment Audit Committee’s inquiry into the sustainability of the fashion industry.

The chair of the enquiry, Mary Creagh MP, posed questions relating to safety and wages in supply chains as well as the environmental impacts of fast fashion such as pollution, plastic, waste and carbon emissions. Caroline Lucas MP also challenged the companies in relation to what they were doing to reduce the amounts of pesticides and fungicides being used in their cotton supply chains.

Image: fashion united dumptruck infographic about clothing going to landfill in the UK
Credit: Fashion Revolution

High-street retailers being questioned included Marks and Spencer, Primark, Burberry and the Arcadia Group which owns brands including Top Shop, Dorothy Perkins, Miss Selfridge and Wallis. Online retailers, ASOS, Boohoo and Missguided were also questioned.

The inquiry held its last hearing in December where ministers were questioned over failures to enforce minimum wage laws in the UK garment industry as well as issues around textile waste. This was particularly in relation to evidence disclosed to the committee regarding “rampant non payment of the minimum wage in Leicester textile factories”. 

The inquiry had heard evidence that female workers, often very young, were being paid an average of £3.50 an hour and working in factories with doors, including fire escapes, padlocked, and auditors were repeatedly being blocked from access.

Kelly Tolhurst, Minister for Small Business, Consumers and Corporate Responsibility repeatedly avoided answering questions into what her department was doing to investigate this. Transcripts, videos and evidence that form part of the inquiry are all publicly available. The inquiry will be publishing its recommendations in February.

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