Blog: Hannah AbdullaBritish MPs call for laws to tackle fast fashion

Hannah Abdulla | 25 February 2019

The UK government is being urged to introduce legislation that requires fashion brands and retailers to perform due diligence checks across their supply chains and take more responsibility for the environmental impact of their businesses. 

The calls follow a probe into the British fashion industry at the end of last year amid concerns the so-called 'fast-fashion' business model encourages over-consumption and generates excessive waste. However, a new report from the Fashion Retail Academy has indicated consumers are choosing "expensive, long-lasting" clothing items over cheaper on-trend options, suggesting the movement is slowing down.

Meanwhile, pressure continues to mount for the apparel industry to change its habits and become more sustainable. But, one of the biggest barriers to this is cost.

Leaders from the US and China held several meetings over the last week to hash out ways they could move past their trade spat. Tariffs and policy changes from the dispute have become the main enemy of supply chain managers, who rely on consistency and certainty to plan and execute global trade. A new white paper emphasises the importance of businessesidentifying the right technology to provide the greatest advantage over industry rivals.

Technology continues to move at the speed of light in the apparel industry. A startup innovation that uses microbe analytics to trace product origins in global supply chains has just received a US$14m cash boost that will be used to fuel its expansion. The move could, in a nutshell, mean swabbing the "invisible dust on a new running shoe" with a cotton bud and seeing where it comes from. It is expected to tackle issues including labour abuses in supply chains.

The Pakistan Readymade Garments Exporters Association (PRGMEA) has rejected claims in a Human Rights Watch report about labour abuse in Pakistani factories, adding its organised sector is frequently audited and surveys such as this create the wrong image of its garment industry.

But in Uzbekistan's cotton fields labour abuse continues to be a problem. The Cotton Campaign and some Uzbek government officials met recently to agree on broad areas of further progress that are necessary to achieve lasting reform, including an agreement to intensify direct dialogue in 2019 in order to encourage and accelerate the progress of reform.

Following worker protests over pay in Bangladesh at the end of last year, some textile workers that are affiliated with trade unions have allegedly been imprisoned. Trade union IF Metall says the government is using the strike as "a tool to breakdown the workers and also arrest unions that did not directly participate in the strike."

A decision on the future of the Accord for Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh has been pushed back for the sixth time, with a hearing on the pact's continued operation now due to take place on 7 April.

The Accord is just one example that has been examined in a new paper from the International Labour Rights Forum (ILRF) arguing the case for "worker-centred and worker-driven" corporate social responsibility (CSR) programmes in factories. The ILRF says corporate-led initiatives have been "largely ineffective" in improving conditions for factory workers.

In other news, Payless ShoeSource announced it is closing all US stores amid a second bankruptcy and Canada Goose opened a second Quebec factory. Full-year numbers were out from Delta GalilGildan Activewear and Puma who all reported profit jumps. 

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