The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) has called on five leading online-only fashion retailers to give evidence as part of its sustainability of the fashion industry inquiry, including Amazon and Asos.
Chair of the Committee, Mary Creagh MP, has written letters to Amazon, Asos, Boohoo, PrettyLittleThing and Misguided, and is inviting some of them to give evidence in Parliament.
The Committee is requesting information on areas including staff wages, the life-cycle of the garments sold, and steps being taken to reduce the environmental and social impact of their businesses.
This is part of the Committee’s inquiry into the sustainability of the fashion industry, and how the UK’s fashion industry – that is worth £28bn a year to the UK economy – can reduce its environmental footprint.
The letter follows a previous letter written to the chief executives of the UK’s ten leading fashion retailers to find out what steps they are taking to reduce the environmental and social impact of the clothes and shoes they sell.
Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, Mary Creagh MP – “We want to know that they are fully compliant with employment law, that garments have a decent life-span, and that profit is not put before environmental damage. I look forward to the responses.”
Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, Mary Creagh MP, said: “Our recent evidence hearing raised alarm bells about the fast growing online-only retail sector. Low quality £5 dresses aimed at young people are said to be made by workers on illegally low wages and are discarded almost instantly, causing mountains of non-recycled waste to pile up.
“We will be calling some of these online retailers in front of the Committee to answer questions, but in the meantime, my letters encourage them to face up to the social and environmental consequences of their business models.
“We want to know that they are fully compliant with employment law, that garments have a decent life-span, and that profit is not put before environmental damage. I look forward to the responses.”
On 30th October, the Committee heard “shocking evidence” that the buying practices of some online fashion retailers may be putting British clothing manufacturers in a position where they can only afford to pay garment workers illegally low wages.
Concerns were also raised about the low-quality of some “fast fashion” garments and the excessive waste that this business model is generating.
The Committee will publish the written responses once they are received.
In the letter to global online retailer Amazon, Creagh said the Committee will be considering policy recommendations to reduce these harms. It set out a list of questions among its call for evidence. These are:
- How do you currently ensure that all the garment workers producing the clothesyou sell are paid at least the minimum wage? Do you allow your buyers to order garments from UK suppliers at any price,or do youeducate them on the cost of UK labour and material so that they are aware when a priceis ‘too cheap’ to be made without breaking employment law?
- What is the average life-cycle of the garments you sell? What design and testing processesdo you undertake to determine the quality of new products?
- What steps are you taking to reduce the environmental and social impact of the products you sell? Do you audit this? How do you measure progress towards reducing the environmental impact of the products you sell?
- What recycled materials, if any, do you use in your products? What could the Government do to encourage greater use of recycled materials in clothing production?
- ls your company taking action to reduce the risk of synthetic microfibres being washed into the ocean? lf so, what actions have you taken?
- Are you taking any action to encourage reuse, repair and/or recycling of clothing? What do you recommend your customers do to dispose of your products responsibly?
- Do you incinerate unsold or returned stock?
- Do you use supply chain contracts which provide for rebate payments from manufacturers to your company?