LONDON, United Kingdom — The UK government will not adopt recommendations for tougher regulation of the fashion industry, including a proposed levy on clothing sales to help tackle the sector’s climate impact.
Earlier this year, members of the cross-party Environmental Audit Committee called on the government to enact a raft of new policies to tackle fashion’s environmental and social challenges. Following a months-long investigation, the committee concluded that many fast-fashion retailers were not doing enough to tackle “unsustainable” and “exploitative” industry practises. It called on the government to create financial incentives for brands to reduce their environmental footprint and put in place stricter requirements to police supply chains.
In its response, the government said it is already working with the industry to reduce waste and has stepped up efforts to ensure all British workers are paid at least a minimum wage. It is still considering future policy measures like extended producer responsibility and better product labelling.
The government’s softer-touch approach comes as parts of the fashion sector in the UK face intense financial pressure. The high street is struggling to compete with disruptive and highly competitive online brands, with retail giants like Topshop-owner Arcadia scrambling to avoid bankruptcy.
While there’s growing awareness of the negative environmental and social consequences of fashion, the industry is big business in the UK. It contributes around £30 billion ($38 billion) to the British economy each year and the retail sector is the country’s largest private-sector employer.
The EAC criticised the governments decision to reject its recommendations.
“The government has rejected our call, demonstrating that it is content to tolerate practices that trash the environment and exploit workers despite having just committed to net zero emission targets,” Environmental Audit Committee Chair Mary Creagh said. “Ministers have failed to recognise that urgent action must be taken to change the fast fashion business model which produces cheap clothes that cost the earth.”