Apparel Sourcing Intelligence - Worldwide

UK Parliament demands social accountability records from ten leading clothing retailers

Mary Creagh, Chair of the UK Parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee revealed on October 5 she had sent a social accountability questionnaire to the country’s ten  leading clothing retailers , asking:.

1. Are all the garment workers producing the clothes you sell paid a living wage? What
steps have you taken to ensure that child labour is not used in your supply chain?
2. What is the average life cycle of the garments you sell?
3. What steps are you taking to reduce the environmental and social impact of the
products you sell? Do you audit this? How do you measure progress towards reducing the
environmental impact of the products you sell?
4. What recycled materials, if any, do you use in your products? What could the
Government do to encourage greater use of recycled materials in clothing production?
5. Is your company taking action to reduce the risk of microplastics being washed into the
ocean? If so, what actions have you taken?
6. Are you taking any action to encourage reuse, repair and/or recycling of clothing? What
do you recommend your customers do to dispose of your products responsibly?
7. Do you incinerate unsold or returned stock? What percentage of your sales are online?
What do you do with e-commerce returns?

The request went to: Marks and Spencer, Primark, Next, Arcadia, Asda, Tk Maxx and HomeSense, Tesco, JD Sports Fashion, Debenhams and Sports Direct International. Ms Creagh said retailers “have a responsibility to minimise their environmental footprint and make sure the workers in their supply chains are paid a living wage. We want to hear what they are doing to make their industry more sustainable.”

She has requested replies by October 12.

Previous evidence

At the same time, the Committee released evidence it has already received in the inquiry from experts, campaigners, and social accountability innovators that:

  • Consumption of new clothing, at 27.5 kg per head, is higher in the UK than any other European country
  • During the past 10 years the number of items of clothing purchased per consumer has probably doubled.
  • In Leicester, most garment workers (75-90%) get less than the National Minimum Wage, do not have job contracts, and are subject to intense and arbitrary work practices.
  • Hundreds of thousands of tonnes of clothing ends up in household residual waste every year, with around 80% going to landfill and 20% incinerated
  • Marine habitats around the UK and globally are being contaminated with synthetic fibres
  • A single domestic wash can release in the region of 700,000 fibres to wastewater.
  • The global fashion industry produced 1.2 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent in 2015 – more than international flights and maritime shipping combined.
  • Demand for clothing in the UK drives the production of almost three times more emissions outside of the UK than it drives domestically
  • Clothing production uses a large volume of water and can result in extensive water pollution.
  • A pair of 501 Levi’s jeans will use 3,781 litres in its full lifecycle, from growing cotton and its manufacture through to consumer care and end-of-life disposal.
  • Countries like China and India, which now supply most of the cotton for UK clothes, may well suffer severe water stress and scarcity.