New plans by the British government to make clothing more sustainable and less environmentally damaging has been criticised by one of the leading pioneers of fair-trade fashion for being superficial and lacking focus.

The government rolled out its Sustainable Clothing Action Plan (SCAP) on Saturday (21 February) to coincide with the start of London Fashion Week.

It has enrolled the support of over 300 organisations, from high street retailers, to designers and textile manufacturers who have pledged to improve the sustainability of clothing and battle the environmental impacts of 'throw away fashion'.

But Safia Minney, founder of international fair-trade fashion label People Tree, says it ignores the real issues of sustainability and poverty reduction.

The action plan, which is being supported by Marks & Spencer, Tesco, Sainsbury's and Nike, seeks to cut fashion's "environmental footprint and social inequalities" - which range from high carbon emissions, waste, water usage and pollution to child labour and unfair trading conditions.

The retailers say they will sell more Fairtrade and organic clothing, and use fabrics which can be recycled more easily. Tesco will also ban cotton from countries known to use child labour.

Announcing the scheme, Lord Philip Hunt, Minister for Sustainability, said: "We should all be able to walk into a shop and feel that the clothes we buy have been produced without damaging the environment or using poor labour practices, and that we will be able to reuse and recycle them when we no longer want them."

The clothing and textiles sector in the UK alone is estimated to produce around 3.1m tonnes of CO2, 2m tonnes of waste and 70m tonnes of waste water per year - with 1.5m tonnes of unwanted clothing ultimately ending up in landfill.

However, People Tree's Safia Minney said retailers should be looking to 100% Fair Trade fashion for direction, which promotes low-carbon processes like hand-weaving and organic cotton growing to generate livelihoods while protecting the environment.

She has just launched a new charity called the People Tree Foundation, which aims to benefit farmers and artisans through scaling up and promoting fair and sustainable fashion.