House of Lords: Baroness Young of Hornsey ‘Ethics and Sustainability in the Fashion Industry’

On Tuesday 19th March 2013 Baroness Young of Hornsey opened the second debate on ethics and sustainability in fashion at the House of Lords. It was great timing for me, as I had just organised a workshop day on ethical fashion and was about to present the outcomes of this during Multidisciplinary Research Week at the University of Southampton. One of my suggestions during these talks was that we need greater Government involvement and intervention so it was fantastic to see this debate going ahead. Government intervention will help change progress quicker, either with greater regulation, tighter controls or tax breaks for ethical and sustainable clothing.

WhoMadeYourPants? provide jobs to marginalised women to produce pants in the UK

WhoMadeYourPants? provide jobs to marginalised women to produce pants in the UK

You can catch up with the debate yourself at or read the transcription here. I made some notes, which I will just list in bullet points:

• Fashion is global and local
• Cheaper to dump dye affluent than clean and reuse it
• 400 people died in factory fires in Bangladesh and Pakistan in last 6 months
• Should have better traceability measures & country of origin labelling
• Horse meat equivalent in fashion industry = cotton as it is often impossible to know where it’s from
• Need for leadership from government to support change makers, ethical initiatives and work in partnership to educate consumers, investing in sustainable fashion SMEs
• We have the moral incentives to act and we have talent in the UK
• Role DFID Responsible and Accountable Garment Sector (RAGS) Challenge Fund
• Government can support ethical clothing through purchase of public sector uniforms
• Many ETI members are engaged in practices which attempt to integrate human rights across the supply chain
• Business secretariat efforts to support UK textile manufacturing
• 20 years after first child labour scandals in our high street chains, we still face same problems. Audit procedures are failing, retailers rely too much on cheap, bribable inspectors
• Need more opportunities to showcase best practice, like Estethica at LFW
• £140m of used clothing going to landfill each year we need to urgently address the issue of reuse, exchange and disposal of clothes
• Govt’s consultation on waste prevention last week identifies clothing as one of priority areas for action
• 95% of Brits would never wear real fur
• Green is not just the new black – it is not a trend
• Industry should discourage image of thin models
• Uzbek cotton = 10% of world’s harvest & 20% of their GDP
• Labour behind the label – calls for improvements in wages and health and safety
• Western companies must be more vigilant of the supply chain and take personal responsibility for supply chains
• Human society’s obsessive circle of creation and destruction
• We need ethical production in UK too, sweatshops do exist
• Consumer’s don’t understand the skills, resources and effort taken to make garments
• Can’t wait for retailers to put voluntary codes in place, we need to create laws for their compliance.
• Need – Reinvestment in UK textile industry, transparency of brands so people can make informed choices, legislation
• World market leaders in fashion
• Barbour makes all of waxed coats in UK – gives money to charity
• Scandinavian’s in lead with most sustainable issues
• Lord Giddens commends Vivienne Westwood for her work on climate change
• Buy less and wear it more – at the heart of how we change consumer behaviour, we are addicted to shopping.
• Benefits of clothes hiring services, retailers offering a mending/alterations service, buy back, clothing exchange events amongst consumers
• 2011, nearly 18000 students registered on fashion and textile course in the UK – influence there, need ethics and sustainability embedded into educational programmes

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