Up to 90% of garment workers in Leicester are paid below the minimum wage © 123RF
Up to 90% of garment workers in Leicester are paid below the minimum wage © 123RF

Fashion firms quizzed on supply chains

Will Green is news editor of Supply Management
5 October 2018

MPs are asking clothing retailers questions around working conditions in supply chains and recycling as part of an inquiry into the sustainability of the UK fashion industry.

The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) has written to 10 retailers, including Marks & Spencer, Primark, Next and Sports Direct, requesting information on how long clothes are kept, whether they use recycled materials and encourage recycling, and what steps they are taking to reduce microplastics contaminating the ocean.

The EAC said consumption of new clothing was higher in the UK than any other European country and clothing production had roughly doubled in 15 years. MPs said research showed 75-90% of garment workers in Leicester, a UK sourcing hub, were paid below the minimum wage, do not have employment contracts and were subject to “intense and arbitrary work practices”.

MPs said there were “concerns that the demand for fast fashion is fuelling the need for quick turnarounds in the supply chain, leading to poor working conditions in UK garment factories”.

Firms are also being asked if they incinerate returned or unsold stock.

EAC chair Mary Creagh (Labour) said: “The way we design, produce and discard our clothes has a huge impact on our planet.

“Fashion and footwear retailers have a responsibility to minimise their environmental footprint and make sure the workers in their supply chains are paid a living wage.

“We want to hear what they are doing to make their industry more sustainable.”

The EAC said a single domestic wash can release around 700,000 fibres into wastewater and a pair of Levi’s 501 jeans used 3,781 litres of water during its lifecycle, including growing cotton, manufacture, consumer care and disposal.

The global fashion industry produced 1.2bn tonnes of CO2 in 2015, more emissions than international flights and maritime shipping combined, said MPs.

The EAC has also written to Arcadia Group, Asda, TK Maxx and HomeSense, Tesco, JD Sports and Debenhams.

Separately, anti-slavery organisation TISCreport has produced a live map that collates real-time information so members of the public can see how local authorities are performing on supply chain transparency.

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