MPs propose penny tax in UK fashion to cut waste

  • MPs urged to propose a 1p levy for every garment to raise GBP 35 million to invest in recycling
  • Labour MP Mary Creagh led an inquiry into the sustainability of the fashion industry

By guest author Sahar Nazir from Retail Gazette

Second hand clothes vintage

MPs have called for a change in law to “end the era of throwaway fashion” by proposing a 1p levy for every piece of clothing in order to raise £35 million to invest in better recycling.

A parliamentary inquiry said the government must make retailers take responsibility for fashion waste, operate sustainability, and prosecute those who do not recycle.

Committee chair and Labour MP Mary Creagh led the inquiry into the sustainability of the fashion industry and is focusing on the environmental and human costs.

The Environmental Audit Committee published a report that said the government provided “clear economic incentives for retailers to do the right thing” by reforming “taxation to reward fashion companies that design products with lower environmental impacts and penalise those that do not”.

It also said that the government has to examine whether fashion retail should be included in its proposed tax on virgin plastics, which is due to launch by 2022.

Commenting on Environmental Audit Committee’s report, British Retail Consortium head of sustainability Peter Andrews said: “It’s welcome that the committee has agreed with our calls for better government enforcement of labour rights in factories to support the work retailers are doing on this, and to strengthen the Modern Slavery Act.

“Our members are increasing the use of sustainable materials, designing garments that are made to last, and encouraging customers to return unwanted clothes for reuse, so we can turn old t-shirts into new ones.

“Many of the clothes now on sale from leading retailers have lower environmental impacts. We know much more needs to be done, and through our initiative Better Retail Better World, retailers are taking collective action.”

Meanwhile, the committee surveyed 16 retailers as well as c onsultants, designers, campaigners and bodies such as the Ethical Trading Initiative on the conditions under which items of clothing sold in the UK were made as well as their environmental impact.

Retailers like Amazon, Boohoo, JD Sports, Missguided, TK Maxx and Sports Direct were named as the “least engaged”, with Boohoo criticised significantly.

It also found that Asos, Marks & Spencer, Primark, Tesco and Burberry were the most engaged and ranked Arcadia, Asda, Debenhams and Next as “moderately engaged.”

Kurt Geiger did not respond to the committee.

“The fashion industry has marked its own homework for too long,” the committee said in its executive summary.

“Voluntary corporate social responsibility initiatives have failed significantly to improve pay and working conditions or reduce waste.

“The scientific warnings are stark on sustainability. Over-consumption and climate change are driving mass extinction. We need a new economic model for fashion. Business-as-usual no longer works.

“The government should change the law to require companies to perform due diligence checks across their supply chains.”