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Major British Clothing Companies Agree To Reduce Their Environmental Impact

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Tuesday June 25th, 2013 | 1 Comment

ClothesCompanies representing over a third of the clothing sales in the UK signed on to measure and report the environmental impact of the clothing they make through its lifecycle, and to take action to report the impact. A total of 22 companies signed on to the Sustainable Clothing Action Plan (SCAP) 2020 Commitment, which is lead by WRAP, a British group that advises local authorities and businesses.

Leading signatories include Marks and Spencer, Sainsbury, and Tesco. The areas of focus for SCAP will be lower-impact textile fibers, extending the life of clothing, recovering material which currently goes into the garbage, and providing consumers more information.

The British clothing industry has a sizable impact on the environment, as WRAP Chief Executive Liz Goodwin points out. “We know that overall, clothing contributes around five percent of the carbon footprint and between six to eight percent of the water footprint of all the UK’s goods and services. It also accounts for more than 1 million tonnes of wasted materials, making it the most significant category for consumption impacts after food and drink, housing and transport.”

“SCAP is an opportunity for all players in the sector to work together to reduce these impacts, making individual changes for a common good. The launch of the calculator represents an important step forward,” Goodwin added.

Steering committee oversees SCAP that includes major retailers and recyclers

A steering committee oversees SCAP, consisting of major retailers, brands, recyclers, sector bodies, NGOs and charities. It has four working groups: design, reuse and recycling, influencing consumer behaviors and metrics. The design group identifies the priority actions that will reduce clothing impacts on the environment. The group identified opportunities to develop a common industry mechanism, the Longevity Protocol, to help increase the active life of clothes and develop a training package and knowledge hub to promote resource efficiency. The group also wants to engage with marketing teams, collectors and clothing retailers.

The reuse and recycling group will focus on keeping textiles from landfills by improving collection and separations systems and developing markets for reuse and recycling, while the influencing consumer behaviors group has identified the key behavioral changes consumers can make to reduce the environmental impact of the clothing they buy. Those changes include buying pre-owned clothing, buying durable clothing, repairing clothing, and recycling clothing instead of throwing items away.

The goal of the metrics group is to agree on practical ways to measure and report reductions in carbon, water and waste impacts of British clothing. The group developed the WRAP Clothing Portfolio tool that allows companies to assess how to reduce the environmental impacts of the clothing they produce.

By the end of this year, WRAP plans to have an agreement with the signatories and supporters of SCAP that will provide a collective target for environmental impact reductions by 2020.

Photo: Flickr user, epSos.de


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  • Jonathan Mitchell

    Encouraging. It really does seem that progress is being made in the fashion industry.