‘A fashion sector fit for the future’: Top fashion brands launch Textiles 2030 climate initiative
Environmental Audit Committee set to hold evidence session on initiative this afternoon, days after government confirms it is considering a new clothing trade adjudicator
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Boohoo, Asos, Primark, Next, M&S, Primark, and John Lewis are among 18 major fashion brands that have teamed up on a major environmental initiative geared at reducing the sector’s significant environmental footprint over the coming decade.
The Textiles 2030 scheme, launched this week by waste charity WRAP, commits the fashion retailers to halving their carbon emissions by the end of the decade and reducing the aggregate water footprint of their products by 30 per cent.
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The voluntary agreement has already been endorsed by more than half the UK industry, with companies that account for nearly 60 per cent of clothing placed on the market by sales volume signed up, according to WRAP. New Look, Ted Baker, Sainsbury’s, and Tesco have also signed on to the scheme, alongside 26 reuse or recycling organisations and 21 affiliates.
WRAP CEO Marcus Glover emphasised that sustainability had to become “the next big thing” for the fashion industry. “Textiles 2030 will create a fashion sector fit for the future and lower the environmental impacts of other household textiles,” he said. “This is just the beginning of a decade long programme and we need more companies to show their commitment to their customers through Textiles 2030. With clothing having the fourth largest impact on the environment after transport, housing and food we simply cannot afford for sustainability not to be the next big thing in fashion.”
Alongside pledges to reduce water use and cut carbon emissions, signatories have also committed to using more recycled materials in their products and to pilot and implement business models centred around the reuse of old clothes.
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The national scheme is set to join a global network of initiatives geared at reducing the environmental impact of clothing around the world dubbed the Textiles Action Network, WRAP said.
MPs on the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) are to hold an evidence session this afternoon exploring how the scheme can put the UK fashion industry on a pathway to net zero emissions while incorporating greater circularity across business models.
The session will also investigate how the planned Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) scheme for the textiles industry could be designed to support the initiative and incentivise sustainable design within the fashion industry. The government has committed to consulting on a EPR framework for the clothing and textiles industry by the end of 2022, which could see clothing firms pay towards the cost of disposing of their products.
The coalition launched just a week after the government confirmed it was considering the introduction of a Garment Trade Adjudicator tasked with monitoring large retailers’ relationships with their suppliers, a measure proposed by the EAC amid concerns that voluntary sustainability initiatives have failed to make substantial improvements to pay or working conditions across the sector.
The fashion industry in the UK and abroad is facing mounting pressure to change its practices to reduce its enormous environmental footprint in line with global climate goals.
The United Nations Environment Programme estimates the sector and its complex and opaque supply chains is responsible for 10 per cent of global carbon emissions – more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined – as well as 20 per cent of global wastewater pollution. The rise of cheap synthetic fibres over the last 20 years as a staple of ‘fast fashion’ means brands are now huge consumers of fossil fuels, while being responsible for rapidly worsening instances of microfibres contaminating food, water, oceans, and ecosystems. Meanwhile, the sector is also the cause of mountains of waste, with roughly 87 per cent of clothing material currently incinerated, landfilled, or dumped in nature.
However, there are signs emerging that growing consumer awareness of the fashion sector’s myriad environmental ills could take a bite out of sales over the years to come. Textiles 2030 has launched just a few weeks after analysts at banking giant UBS warned the ‘fast fashion’ sector could see shrinking sales over the coming years as consumers embrace more enviornmentally responsible retailers and types of shopping.
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