Sustainability's in fashion!

Kate Riley was in Westminster to present to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Ethics and Sustainability in Fashion.

Kate was at an event to discuss the problem of corporate uniforms going to landfill, as it is reported that 91% of current uniforms are landfilled or incinerated annually. The event was run by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Ethics and Sustainability in Fashion, chaired by Baroness Young of Hornsey and organised by The Centre for Sustainable Fashion and Hubbub.

The panel discussed the background to the problem and why it is such an important area of waste for companies to focus on. The discussion ranged around broader CSR initiatives, the importance of brand security and identity to customers, and how to build sustainability into the design process.

Wayne Hemmingway discussed a project with London Underground in which 16,000 staff were given the opportunity to help design uniforms which were fit for purpose and thus will be better cared for, creating a bond between wearer and uniform.

In a sector where garments can be replaced every 12-18 months, the importance of making clothes last longer to reduce the overall carbon and water footprint was deemed important.

And Ocado presented a pilot case study in which the company repurposed a selection of uniforms into products which will be resold through the Ocado website to customers next year. Manufacturing was carried out using textile workshop facilities in a prison which were previously being under-used. The project has added benefits of giving prisoners a routine of going to work (the workshop is open Mon-Fri) and learning skills to help them on release.

A significant barrier to uniform reuse/recycling was found to be taxation requirements, which currently stipulate that permanent branding must be applied if garments are to be considered as workwear. There was discussion around whether the MPs present at the meeting could take this forward and determine the viability of making amendments to current legislation.

Simon Strick