Ethical fashion brand So Just Shop is calling on the government and regulators to adopt a 33% unethical practices Fast Tax on the products of brands that cannot prove responsible practices within their supply chain.
The brand says the tax would be levied on companies who cannot prove their supply chain does not include forced or child labour, a negative impact on local water supply, sub-living wages for workers, and toxic chemical and non-green energy usage.
It is proposed the tax would be flagged to shoppers with clear ‘health warning’ labelling that explains why the item is taxed. This would make it easier for consumers to choose ethical and sustainable products, plus close the price gap between fast fashion and ethical products, the company says.
“Fast fashion comes at a high cost, whether it’s polluting water near factories, spraying cotton with toxic chemicals or having child labour within the supply chain,” says Jennifer Georgeson, co-founder of So Just Shop. “These brands can sell items cheaply even if making them harms people and planet. They’re not held accountable for it. I’d like to see legislation and taxation that makes unethical and unsustainable products more expensive and that ensure it is clearly labelled why. This move would make it increasingly difficult for brands to not to have a transparent, ethical and sustainable supply chain and help give consumers clearer choices.
“Either these brands should pay a tax that can be used to clean up after themselves or just see it makes more sense to be ethical and sustainable from the outset.”
The company is encouraging the public to put pressure on the government to adopt a tax through a petition.
The calculations for the 33% proposed tax take into account that a GBP4 (US$5.56) T-shirt costs GBP1 to manufacture unethically. However, it should actually cost GBP3.78 to manufacture, to cover the cost of living wages, water, pollution clean-up and carbon offset – meaning the retail price including operational costs would be GBP8.67, nearly twice as much, according to So Just Shop.
In addition to poor working conditions and low wages for those in fashion manufacturing, the industry has other impacts on people and the planet, the company adds, including water shortage, pollution and climate change, and waste.
“As it stands, those of us who behave ethically and sustainably, ensuring we are paying living wages, using carbon negative or carbon neutral products within our supply chain, upcycling and reducing pollution – basically behaving as responsible businesses and individuals should – are at a competitive disadvantage to those who behave with unregulated irresponsibility towards our planet and its people,” says Georgeson.
“The myth that sustainable and ethical fashion is expensive exists because fast fashion brands are not paying the true cost of the goods they are manufacturing. We should no longer be at a competitive disadvantage to those who behave irresponsibly and unethically. When you consider the real cost of fast fashion, sustainable and ethical items feel very good value.
“Right now, fashion is not fair for the people who make it, for the planet or for the people who buy it. We are out to change that. Whilst it’s often suggested it’s the responsibility of the public to seek out sustainable choices, we think it’s up to industry and government to ensure they’re commonplace.”
A Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) spokesperson told just-style the government is firmly committed to ending the ‘throwaway’ culture as we build back greener.
“Major retailers and fashion brands have made strides in reducing their environmental footprint but there is more we must do. That is why, through our world-leading Environment Bill and landmark reforms, we will take steps to tackle fast fashion by incentivising recycling and encouraging innovation in new design.”