Fast-fashion bosses might be heading to Westminster next month to face a grilling by British lawmakers on the impact “low-quality 5-pound dresses” have on the environment as well as pay.
Mary Creagh, chairwoman of the Commons’ cross-party Environmental Audit Committee, called upon the heads of Amazon U.K., Asos, Bohoo, PrettyLittleThing and Missguided to give evidence as part of its investigation into fast fashion that was launched in June.
Creagh’s invitation comes after she heard “shocking evidence” last month that the buying practices of some online 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.
“Our recent evidence hearing raised alarm bells about the fast-growing online-only retail sector. Low-quality 5-pound 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,” she said in a statement.
While Creagh awaits their response to appearing before the committee, she has asked them to write back to her, addressing concerns over how they ensure that all garment workers producing the clothes they sell are paid at least the minimum wage.
She also wants answers on whether they use recycled materials, incinerate unsold or returned stock and if they are taking action to encourage reuse, repair and recycling of clothing.
“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,” she said.
This followed a 2017 report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, which found that fashion will have eaten into more than a quarter of the world’s annual carbon budget by 2050 if trends continue.
The report cautioned that while fashion generates $1.3 trillion in revenue and employs 300 million people across the world, it’s also one of the most wasteful and polluting industries and is such an archetypical example of our current wasteful “take-make-dispose” model.
Further shining a light on the issue, Stella McCartney said during a September interview with WWD that “the industry basically cuts down 150 million trees a year and every second a truck of clothes gets sent to a landfill. Doing my ad campaign at a landfill really opened my eyes to the reality of the situation.”