During our research into fast fashion companies Boohoo and Missguided, we noticed some strange company structures. The resulting article Clothing Companies and Tax Havens discusses who the best and worst performers are. These tend to score much better than the high-street stores and are each trying hard to show how an alternative to the fast fashion model can work. The first looks at new issues like viscose pollution, and the rise of concern about the release of microfibres of plastic into the ocean from synthetic clothing. And as citizens, we can also lobby our political representatives.
We have therefore summarised five key political asks further down this page. It is estimated that around two-thirds of the climate impact over the lifetime of a garment occurs at the raw materials stage.
We, therefore, marked some companies down on the Ethiscore table under Climate Change. One of the most pressing issues in the sector is the use of toxic chemicals.
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The chemicals are used in dyes, for cleaning and fireproofing, as antifungals, for water and stain-proofing, as solvents and as pigments. These hazardous chemicals have been found in effluent from supply chain manufacturers, in products and in the environment, despite decades of regulation and corporate responsibility programmes. For local communities living near manufacturing facilities, water pollution has become a daily reality.
Attempts to address this problem have typically involved setting and tightening the legal limits for the discharge and release of a relatively narrow range of hazardous chemicals.
The situation is particularly bad in Bangladesh, where protests in against the minimum wage of less than half a dollar an hour, led to over 11, workers being fired. The Bangladesh Accord is now under threat too. This was set up after the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Also, out of that disaster came the excellent Fashion Revolution campaign. It has a website full of resources for taking action, from the hashtag whomademyclothes to question brands on social media, to postcard templates for writing to policymakers. More details are available for logged-in subscribers on our website. Companies were also assessed for Animal Rights in relation to using animal products such as leather, merino wool, silk, goose and duck down angora or fur , and several lost marks for Animal Testing as they sold perfumes as well as clothes.
If they sold cosmetics they were also rated for their palm oil practices as palm derivatives are widely used in body care and makeup. For the first time, perplexingly, we have discovered companies including TK Maxx and Amazon being criticised for using real fur labelled as fake!
We found that most companies in these guides sold leather items — either clothing, shoes or accessories like bags and belts. Aside from the obvious animal rights issue there, there are other problems with leather including pollution from toxic chemicals used in manufacturing, forced labour, and deforestation for cattle ranching.
One of the most polluting processes of leather production is the tanning phase - a process that uses toxic chemicals to turn animal skin into leather and stop it from decomposing. One of the most problematic chemicals used is chromium. During the process, this produces a chemical by-product, hexavalent chromium , which is a known human carcinogen.
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Many other hazardous chemicals are used in the process including arsenic, heavy metals and cyanide. We asked companies if they had a policy on the use of leather, including how it is sourced and treated e. For more on leather see our guide to furniture shops. A large number of companies also lost marks under Anti-Social Finance. For some of them, this was because we thought they were making excessive annual payments to directors. The worst payments were astonishing:. Other companies had tax havens in their corporate structures, and we look at this in more detail in our feature on clothing companies and tax havens.
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On top of clothing-specific marks, some companies such as Next and FatFace, both partly owned by large investment companies lost extra marks for activities within their company group. This also applied to supermarkets and other food companies which were marked down in the animals columns for selling meat products. See more about this and see who's in what initiative in our fashion workers' rights feature.
Many of the high-street clothing retailers have adopted an approach to clothing production where turnaround times for it to be designed, manufactured and sold is achieved within weeks. Retailers can now react to changing trends, or the weather, at a drop of a hat. This shift in production has also gone hand-in-hand with a reduction in prices. That pressure caused Rana Plaza in The garments produced in the world of fast fashion are generally of low quality, but many are thrown out before they have the chance to be worn out.
It appears that this problem is worse among younger generations. While the carbon impact of clothing is concentrated at the start of its lifecycle , in the production phase, changing the structure of the fashion system could transform its relationship with the natural world. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation has outlined what a new, circular textile economy could look like, and the four steps that the industry must take:.
- Our global model.
- Truly ethical trading;
- Hang Wire.
Companies must make durability attractive and commit to producing garments that last. It is not simply a matter of recycling more: clothing must be designed for reuse and adaptation and the infrastructure for collection needs to be put in place. The clothes industry is likely to always need some virgin materials but these need to come from renewable resources, using renewable feedstock for plant-based fibres and regenerative agriculture to produce any renewable virgin materials.
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The industry cannot claim that change is not possible. In May, climate change movement Extinction Rebellion called for a boycott of the fashion industry :. In September, the group will be holding a funeral outside the Autumn fashion week events. Act now! Join the Extinction Rebellion fashion boycott.
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If you want to find out detailed information about a company and more about its ethical rating, then click on a brand name in the Score table. This information is reserved for subscribers only. Ethics made easy - comprehensive, simple to use, transparent and reliable ethical rankings.
Cancel via phone or email within 30 days for a full, no-questions-asked refund! People Tree is a best buy from our alternative clothing guide. In the three decades since our funds were first launched, we have kept our criteria under continuous review, and developed new standards in areas such as oil sands, bank business ethics and climate change. Once we have invested, we are active owners. We engage with companies to address ESG risks and exercise our voting rights to encourage good governance. We view engagement as critical in ensuring that positive ESG momentum is maintained.
In turn, this helps support long-term risk management and performance. We track and measure the impact of our engagement with companies. Examples of results achieved include:. Apple: strengthened its supply chain labour standards by introducing new measures to protect migrant workers, including a ban on recruitment fees. We have recently written a comprehensive guide for clients around the main themes of ESG investing, covering topics such as:.
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