Public backs calls for government to clean up fashion industry

Hubbub report reveals widespread support for policies to curb environmental impact of clothing industry

The fast fashion movement may have reshaped the clothing industry, but it is at risk of alienating a majority of the public who are increasingly concerned about the sector’s out-sized environmental impact. 

That is the conclusion of new polling from environmental charity Hubbub, which shows nearly two thirds of people want the fashion industry to “slow down” by producing longer lasting and more durable clothes and ratcheting back its relentless marketing activity.

The survey also reveals a majority of Britons want clearer on-label information about how clothes can be recycled and more investment in skills and research to help the industry reduce its impact on the environment.

The new report – titled Making the UK a global leader in sustainable fashion’ – was lauched at the latest meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Ethics and Sustainability in Fashion earlier this week.

It shows that two-thirds of the public want the government to step up investment in research and development to support the creation of more sustainable fabrics. Almost three-quarters of the public, meanwhile, would back government support for fashion start-ups that operate green business models, while a similar proportion want to see more investment to help ensure clothes manufacturing jobs are brought back to the UK.

The research also showed that most shoppers – 64 per cent – would like better information about the sustainability of the clothes they buy, so as to help inform their “everyday choices”.

“Creating a sustainable and ethical future for the fashion industry is an important but complex challenge for government, industry and the public and what is clear is that there is an appetite for this on all sides,” said chair of the APPG Catherine West MP. “We must seize this moment and put these recommendations into action by pushing the government to be a global leader, helping to build a more sustainable and ethical fashion industry, both within the UK and globally.”

The report’s authors also highlighted how an industry that has faced fierce criticism over its wide-ranging environmental impacts had been provided with an opportunity to change course as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Covid-19 has significantly hit the fashion industry,” said Trewin Restorick, founder and CEO of Hubbub UK. “Supply chains have broken, sales have dropped, unsold stock has built, retail outlets have closed and companies have gone out of business. Consumer habits have shifted and so have attitudes – the public wants to see change.” 

The report is one part of Hubbub’s new Greenprint manifesto, which was launched last week and aims to offer practical advice to political leader on how to reinvigorate the UK economy along more sustainable lines as Ministers weigh how to engineer a promised ‘green recovery’.

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