In 2012, one of the first evidence base on the environmental impacts of the fashion industry was published under the name “Valuing Our Clothes: the cost of UK fashion” by the WRAP organisation. It analysed the environmental impact of the whole journey of clothing, from raw materials and manufacturing, to purchase, use and disposal.
The Action Plan
In 2013, WRAP, with the support of the UK government, launched the Sustainable Clothing Action Plan 2020 (SCAP), an industry-wide commitment to drive more sustainable production and consumption, and to increase textiles re-use and recycling.
As Steve Creed, Director Business Programmes at WRAP, said “clothing manufacture and sales in the UK is still the fourth largest pressure on our natural resources after housing, transport and food. To address this huge challenge, we all need to learn to value our clothes more.”
Against a 2012 baseline, the following targets were agreed by SCAP for 2020:
– 15% reduction of carbon footprint
– 15% reduction of water footprint
– 15% reduction of waste to landfill
– 3.5% reduction in waste arising over the whole product life cycle.
In 2015, the SCAP membership already covered 50% of the retail market while in 2017 the agreement counted 75 signatories and supporters representing more than 58% of the UK retail sales.
Progresses and further implementation for the future
The new report, published in July 2017, updated the evidence base and shows which progresses have been done since 2012, offering new key opportunities for business and consumers to further reduce their impact.
As regards the progresses, the latest reporting shows that during 2012-15 the SCAP 2020 Commitment has achieved:
– 10.6% reduction in carbon against a target of 15%;
– 13.5% reduction in water against a target of 15%; and
– 0.8% reduction in waste arising over the whole product life cycle against a target of 3.5%.
The amount of clothing in household residual waste has also decreased substantially:
– 14% reduction in household residual waste against a target of 15%.
Other actions are suggested for being pursued to ensure that the SCAP targets are met by 2020. Some examples are:
– Extending the life of clothes by designing better quality garments to be more durable and by encouraging re-use through sales of second hand clothing
– Helping household to better care for clothes
– Improving the production processes in order to minimise the generation of waste and to requirement of raw materials (energy, water…)
– Switching to sustainable cotton in order to reduce the water footprint
– Implementing closed loop recycling of clothing.
Making use of, and extending the work of SCAP, relies on providing learnings from what has, and what has not worked, and on sharing information throughout the whole supply chain. There has been good progress since 2012, and there is more that can be done to ensure that the SCAP targets are met.
In doing so, SCAP signatories can continue to demonstrate that the needs of the industry and consumers can be met, whilst at the same time, taking the lead in reducing the environmental impact of clothing.