APPG for Ethics and Sustainability in Fashion

Houses of Parliament Westminster (CC Nikoretro)

APPG for Ethics and Sustainability in Fashion explores key developments in legislation and industry initiatives that are changing the contours of sustainable fashion reporting

Following a successful first meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Ethics and Sustainability in Fashion earlier this year, Baroness Young of Hornsey will be chairing a second meeting on Wednesday 23 November, 2011 at the House of Lords, with MADE-BY and the Centre for Sustainable Fashion (CSF) providing secretariat services.

The group will examine: How UK fashion companies will be impacted by two key developments: legislation within Europe on sustainability reporting and the emergence of new industry groups like the Sustainable Apparel Coalition.

While the UK Government’s approach to date has been to encourage voluntary reporting, legislations around the world have been emerging over the past three years that stipulate more transparent reporting requirements of larger businesses. The Danish Act on CSR reporting adopted in 2008, for example, specifies that large Danish businesses must account for their work on CSR in their annual reports. In 2010, the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act was also launched (which MADE-BY reported on in our blog earlier this year), which from 2012 will require large retail sellers and manufacturers to disclose their efforts made to eradicate slavery and human trafficking from their direct supply chains. Spain has also followed suit by introducing the Spanish Sustainable Economy Act in March this year, which requires government-sponsored commercial companies and state-owned businesses to file annual corporate governance and sustainability reports. The European Commission published a new communication on CSR in October this year, which sets out the priorities and actions planned for the next three years on CSR in the EU. Although the strategy continues to favour ‘self-regulation’, it sees market mechanisms as important in ‘complementing’ regulation that promotes transparency.

In addition to legislative advances, we have also seen other initiatives in the industry pushing forward the sustainability and human rights agendas. The Sustainable Apparel Coalition was founded in March 2011 and is an industry-lead group of leading clothing and footwear brands and retailers (including Adidas, H&M and Marks & Spencer), manufacturers, non-governmental organisations, academic experts and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, whose aim is to reduce the environmental and social impacts of apparel and footwear products around the world. The UN Global Compact, launched in July 2000, also aims to align business operations and strategies worldwide through a leadership platform for the development, implementation and disclosure of responsible and sustainable corporate policies and practices. On 16th June 2011, the United Nations Human Rights Council endorsed the Guiding Principles for the Implementation of the UN “Protect, Respect and Remedy” Framework, developed by Harvard Professor John Ruggie. The UN Guiding Principles provide an authoritative global standard for preventing and addressing the risk of adverse impacts on human rights linked to business activity. Furthermore, the OECD Guidelines, which not only apply to companies own activities, but also suppliers, provide voluntary principles and standards for responsible business conduct in areas such as employment and industrial relations, human rights, environment, information disclosure, combating bribery, consumer interests, science and technology, competition and taxation.

In light of these developments, the APPG meeting will aim to discuss: the potential benefits of legislation over self-regulation, challenges faced by businesses in the fashion industry in regard to CSR legislation, what businesses can reasonably be expected to report on, as well as the scope and metrics options most appropriate for reporting.  

Speaking at the event, the group will see Victor Kjær, Deputy General Director, Danish Commerce and Companies Agency, Ministry of Business and Growth, discuss the recent changes in the Danish CSR legislation and how they have impacted on businesses to date; John Morrison, Executive Director of the Institute for Human Rights and Business, will discuss the movement of EU legislation on CSR and the implementation of the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act. Finally, Labour Party life peer, Lord Tony Young, will share his views on the subject based on his experiences as Vice Chair for the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI), and role within trade unions.

A chaired discussion with Baroness Young and commentary by Lucy Shea, Chief Executive of Futerra Sustainability Communications, Sean Ansett, former CR Director of Burberry and Lucy Drage, Ethics and Sustainability Manager for GM and Clothing, Sainsbury’s, will then follow.

An open debate with an exclusive audience of parliamentarians, CSR experts and fashion brands will complete the afternoon.  MADE-BY is proud to provide secretariat services for the APPG, enabling us to be a key part of this debate.

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