New report calls on fashion industry to end greenwashing

brett mathews | 13th September 2018

LONDON – A new report has called on the UK government and fashion industry to develop initiatives to tackle greenwashing as part of a strategy to meet environmental challenges in clothing production. Produced by the UK Institution of Mechanical Engineers, the report addresses a spectrum of areas, notably the vast amount of water used in clothing production, microfibre pollution in the oceans, and fashion waste.

Notably, the institute calls for urgent action to prevent the “six million microfibres released from a typical 5kg wash load of polyester fabrics from polluting [oceans].”

Among recommendations are incentives for the development of more environmentally friendly fibres.

“Each time an item of clothing is washed up to 700,000 microscopic fibres make their way into our oceans, where they are swallowed by sea life and become incorporated into the food chain, potentially ending up on our plates,” claims the report – although not all will be in agreement with the reliability of these figures.

The report highlights that garment aftercare affects an item’s carbon footprint and advocates for individuals to wash their clothes at a lower temperature, use mesh laundry bags to catch threads, rely on tumble dryers less often or install filters on washing machine waste pipes.

Engineering Out Fashion Waste also highlights the extent to which fashion is a thirsty industry, one which contributes significantly to water pollution globally.

The Institution calls for urgent action to tackle the waste produced over the lifecycle of an item of clothing. This includes addressing water-intensive processes during manufacturing, such as removing excess dyes, and tackling the problem of disposing of a garment at the end of its life.

Aurelie Hulse, lead author of Engineering Out Fashion Waste, said: “We need to build on existing industry initiatives and fundamentally rethink the way clothes are manufactured, right down to the fibres that are used. Garments should be created so they don’t fall apart at the seams and so that they can be recycled after they have been worn for many years. Fabrics should be designed not to shed microfibres when washed and industry needs look at how efficiencies can be made in the cutting process, which currently sees 60bn m2 of cut-off material discarded on factory floors each year.”

One recommendation refers to greenwashing. It says: “The UK Government should work with the fashion industry and manufacturers to develop a comprehensive framework to tackle ‘greenwashing’, or false sustainability claims. Corporate Social Responsibility is an essential element of a brand’s identity. It helps a company position itself as a responsible business and market itself to ethically conscious customers. However, sometimes a company’s claims don’t always add up. The UK industry should look to the Higg Index, a US industry self-assessment standard for assessing environment and social sustainability throughout the supply chain.”

 

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