The production of sustainable apparel in China has a “blind spot” that wastes large amounts of energy and water, and causes pollution problems, says a new report.

The second phase of the 'Cleaning up the Fashion Industry Report' has been compiled by five environmental NGOs, including Friends of Nature, The Institute of Public & Environmental Affairs, Green Beagle, Envirofriends and Nanjing Green Stone.

It calls on consumers to push apparel brands to live up to their environmental responsibilities, criticising 22 brands for their inadequate responses to questions about alleged emissions violations problems in their supply chain.

These include Marks & Spencer – singled out for particular criticism – JC Penney, Disney, Polo Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger.

At the heart of the issue, the NGOs claim, is China’s shift away from labour-intensive garment manufacturing and into dyeing and finishing – which it says uses large amounts of water and electricity, and discharges more pollution.

This in turn is exacerbated by a failure to abide by environmental laws and regulations, lax enforcement and the cheap cost of water supplies, the report adds.

It says many apparel brands only carry out environmental management through the first tier of the supply chain, but have a “blind spot” when it comes to dyeing and finishing businesses – who then cut corners to save money and win contracts.

“Consumers also need to make a choice,” the NGOs said. “We believe that consumers of Marks & Spencer, Disney, JC Penney, Polo Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger products are not willing to accept damage to the environment and communities in order to keep the cost of their fashionable clothes low.

“For the sake of the environment and to ensure that we can give our children a safe place to live, we propose that consumers make brands like Marks & Spencer aware of their feelings.”