Westminster Business Forum

Sustainability, ethics and the UK fashion industry - next steps for business practice and options for policy

Morning, Wednesday, 20th November 2019

Central London


With increasing focus from consumers and policymakers on sustainability in fashion, this conference will examine industry responsibilities and practices - and options for policy and regulatory reform.

Keynote contributions

  • Caroline Rush, Chief Executive, British Fashion Council - on priorities for the fashion industry in ensuring sustainability and reducing social and environmental impact;
  • Dr Lisa Cameron MP, Chair, All-Party Parliamentary Group on Textiles and Fashion will discuss the priorities going forward for ensuring the future growth of UK fashion with increased sustainability; and
  • Professor Dilys Williams, Director, Centre for Sustainable Fashion and Professor, Fashion Design for Sustainability, London College of Fashion who will give her views on embedding sustainability into fashion education, business and research.

The agenda

  • The view from Parliament: how to ensure the future growth of UK fashion and increased sustainability;
  • Embedding sustainability into fashion education, business and research;
  • How the fashion industry can reduce its environmental impact and move towards a circular economy;
  • Creating supply chain transparency and traceability within the industry to ensure better social responsibility; and
  • Improving factory working conditions and combating modern slavery.

The policy focus on sustainability in fashion

It comes with recommendations from the Environmental Audit Committee’s inquiry into the sustainability of the fashion industry being rejected by the UK Government amidst concern from some that it did not go far enough. 

The Committee had called for:

  • banning incinerating or landfilling unsold stock;
  • a one penny tax on producers per garment and a reduction in VAT on repair services; and
  • government to publish a publicly accessible list of retailers required to release a modern slavery statement.

Reducing waste and the environmental impact

Delegates will discuss what steps need to be taken across the industry to reduce waste and move towards the target, now being backed in legislation, of net-zero emissions by 2050, along with what support and leadership is required from government to support the industry in reaching this target.

With the fashion industry facing challenges outside their control such as emissions created in their global supply chains, the agenda will include discussion on how fashion businesses can work with manufacturers to become more efficient.

It comes with companies such as Nike, H&M Group and Adidas signing the UN Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action and organisations such as the Ellen MacArthur Foundation calling for a move towards circular fashion.

With the current trend for ‘fast fashion’, sessions will look at how the industry can continue to keep costs down and achieve growth whilst at the same time introducing:

  • manufacturing models which reduce the impact on the environment; and
  • business models that enable consumers to buy less, buy better quality and recycle.

There will be a case study insight into the moves that H&M are taking to become more ‘climate positive’ and reduce waste, from Giorgina Waltier, Sustainability Manager, UK & Ireland, H&M.

Ensuring supply chain traceability and transparency

The focus on speed and cost reductions in the fashion industry has created significant challenges to successfully implementing strategies that are both competitive and socially responsible. 

As consumers start to question ‘who made my clothes?’, delegates will discuss what needs to be done to improve ethical standards and protect brand reputation throughout the supply chain - including approaches such as building closer relationships with fewer suppliers, widening the sharing of information, and integrating pre-production activities such as product design.

Improving working conditions

Following the Rana Plaza disaster and with the fashion industry being listed in the Global Slavery Index as one of the five key industries implicated in modern slavery, delegates will discuss the steps that can be taken by brands to improve working conditions in factories across the globe - in particular how collaboration between buyers, factories and workers can encourage decisions that will improve conditions and create lasting change.

Keynote Speaker

Professor Dilys Wiliams

Director, Centre for Sustainable Fashion and Professor, Fashion Design for Sustainability, London College of Fashion

Keynote Speakers

Professor Dilys Wiliams

Director, Centre for Sustainable Fashion and Professor, Fashion Design for Sustainability, London College of Fashion

Caroline Rush

Chief Executive, British Fashion Council

Dr Lisa Cameron MP

Chair, All-Party Parliamentary Group on Textiles and Fashion


Sarah Ditty

Policy Director, Fashion Revolution

Emily Dorotheou

Associate, Mishcon de Reya

Giorgina Waltier

Sustainability Manager, UK & Ireland, H&M

Professor Tim Cooper

Head, Clothing Sustainability Research Group, Nottingham Trent University

Chloe Cranston

Business & Human Rights Programme Manager, Anti-Slavery International

Councillor Celia Hibbert

Penn Ward, City of Wolverhampton Council and Part-time Model

Dr Adam Read

External Affairs Director, Suez Recycling and Recovery UK

Pam Batty

Vice President, Corporate Responsibility, Burberry

Leah Riley Brown

Sustainability Policy Advisor, British Retail Consortium