A parliamentary inquiry has called for a law change to incentivise fashion retailers to operate sustainably and punish those that do not.

The inquiry into the sustainability of the fashion industry, led by Labour MP Mary Creagh, focused on both the environmental and human costs of the industry.

The report by the Environmental Audit Committee, published today, has recommended the Government provides “clear economic incentives for retailers to do the right thing” by reforming “taxation to reward fashion companies that design products with lower environmental impacts and penalise those that do not”.

The committee also proposed levying a 1p charge on every garment made for British retailers to raise £35m to invest in better recycling.

It added that the Government should investigate whether fashion retail should be included in its proposed tax on virgin plastics, due to come into force in 2022.

Retailers ranked

The committee questioned 16 retailers as well as consultants, designers, campaigners and bodies such as the Ethical Trading Initiative on the conditions under which garments sold in Britain were made, as well as their environmental impact.

Amazon, Boohoo, JD Sports, Missguided, TK Maxx and Sports Direct were named as the least engaged of the retailers, with Boohoo particularly harshly criticised.

The committee found that Asos, Marks & Spencer, Primark, Tesco and Burberry were the most engaged and ranked Arcadia, Asda, Debenhams and Next as moderately engaged. Kurt Geiger did not respond to the committee’s requests for evidence.

“The fashion industry has marked its own homework for too long,” the committee said in its executive summary. “Voluntary corporate social responsibility initiatives have failed significantly to improve pay and working conditions or reduce waste.

“The scientific warnings are stark on sustainability. Overconsumption and climate change are driving mass extinction. We need a new economic model for fashion. Business-as-usual no longer works. The government should change the law to require companies to perform due diligence checks across their supply chains.”

Sweatshops, landfill and levies: MPs take on fashion