Soil Association Comment on Launch of 'Valuing our Clothes' by Wrap

24 July 2012

Originating as Defra's Sustainable Clothing Action Roadmap, this new report aims to highlight opportunities across the clothing value chain to reduce the resource impacts of clothing supply, use and disposal. The Soil Association welcomes both the initiative and the report which provides useful encouragement for retailers to think about sustainability and tackle the issue of waste.

However, the report focusses heavily on post-production environmental impact and lacks in-depth consideration of the production and processing methods related to clothing production. This is a missed opportunity. The significant environmental and social risks associated with the production and processing of clothes should be considered when assessing overall sustainability such as pesticides, water pollution, GM seeds and sweatshop labour.

We welcome the report’s recognition of the Global Organic Textile Standards (GOTS) as a lower-impact production method, particularly as organic cotton production doesn’t use harmful artificial pesticides and promotes healthier soils which store more carbon and water. GOTS standards also safeguard against harmful processing chemicals escaping into the environment.

The report does include some puzzling contradictions. For example, polycotton blends are recommended over cotton, whilst elsewhere the report promotes a reduction of the use of finite resources (which the polyester in polycotton is derived from) and also promotes recycling - polycotton blends are not easily recycled.

Overall, this is a useful report focussing on post-production. Going forward, we would welcome a more serious and in-depth investigation which includes a consideration of where clothing comes from and how it is made.  It is imperative that the whole ‘lifecycle’ of clothing is taken into account to confidently make any claims about sustainability. The NICE (Nordic Initiative Clean and Ethical), the PUMA environmental P+L accounts and increasingly the work of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) have shown a more comprehensive approach is possible.

For more information on organic textiles visit - www.soilassociation.org/whatisorganic/organictextiles

Christopher Stopes, Regional Representative from Global Organic Textile Standards (GOTS), comments on Launch of 'Valuing our Clothes' by Wrap:

"The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) provides clear, independently verified standards for processing organic fibres including a list of permitted chemical inputs that excludes hazardous substances from the whole supply chain. The choice of lower impact fibres is highlighted in the Sustainable Clothing Action Plan as an area where retailers and manufacturers can make take action.

"Choosing organic fibres and processing, required by the GOTS, can help clean up the textile industry - often associated with toxic discharge to the environment around the world.

"Nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs) are a type of toxic and hazardous chemical input used in textile manufacture. NPE degrades to nonylphenol (NP), known to be persistent, toxic, bioaccumulative and with the potential to disrupt hormone systems (endocrine disruption = "gender bending"). NPE containing chemicals are still used in many countries around the world and textiles produced using these hazardous substances are sold throughout the EU. NPE is prohibited in the GOTS.

"To protect the environment and human health rigorous standards like GOTS are essential. They can ensure that organic textiles are produced without harming the environment, they also meet social criteria. The Sustainable Clothing Action Plan must ensure that retailers and manufacturers stop greenwash and sign up to standards that deliver. GOTS gets a mention, but more is needed."

For more information about GOTS visit - www.global-standard.org

Read the Wrap report here

 






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