Tax F.A.S.T fashion

What would a £4 T-shirt really cost, if the manufacturer had to pay to clean up the damage they do to people and planet?

Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod

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Published: 29 April 2021

This Article was Written by: Katie Hill - My Green Pod

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A fascinating new way to consider the real cost of fast fashion reveals a £4 T-shirt should cost over twice as much – almost £9 – if fast fashion brands were held accountable for the true cost to people and planet of manufacturing their goods irresponsibly.
 
The ethical brand behind the calculations says we should stop asking how much more people are willing to pay for sustainable fashion and start asking how much more unethical fashion should be taxed.

‘Health warning’ labels

 
SO JUST SHOP is calling on governments and regulators to adopt a 33% unethical practices ‘F.A.S.T.’ tax on the products of brands that cannot prove responsible practices within their supply chain.

It is proposed this tax would be flagged to shoppers with clear ‘health warning’ labelling that explains why the item is taxed.

This would make it easier for consumers to choose ethical and sustainable products, plus close the price gap between fast fashion and ethical products.
 
The F.A.S.T. tax would be levied on companies who cannot prove their supply chain doesn’t include forced or child labour; a negative impact on local water supply; sub-living wages for workers or toxic chemicals and non-green energy usage.
 
If you’d like to help put pressure on the government to adopt a F.A.S.T fashion tax, click here to sign the petition.

Price vs cost

The calculations for the 33% proposed tax take into account that a £4 T-shirt costs £1 to manufacture unethically.

However, it should actually cost £3.78 to manufacture, to cover the cost of living wages, water, pollution clean-up and carbon offset – meaning the retail price including operational costs would be £8.67, nearly twice as much.

‘Fast fashion comes at a high cost, whether it’s polluting water near factories, spraying cotton with toxic chemicals or having child labour within the supply chain. These brands can sell items cheaply even if making them harms people and planet. They’re not held accountable for it.

‘I’d like to see legislation and taxation that makes unethical and unsustainable products more expensive and that ensure it is clearly labelled why. This move would make it increasingly difficult for brands not to have a transparent, ethical and sustainable supply chain and help give consumers clearer choices.

‘Either these brands should pay a tax that can be used to clean up after themselves or just see it makes more sense to be ethical and sustainable from the outset.’

JENNIFER GEORGESON
Co-founder of SO JUST SHOP

The cost of fast fashion

 
While many people are aware of the potential poor working conditions and low wages for people working in fast fashion manufacturing – including the potential for child labour and forced labour – the industry has many other wide-ranging impacts on people and planet.

Currently brands are not accountable for the water they use in growing the raw materials for their products. This can often mean that communities where the raw materials are grown are left with a dangerously low water supply for their personal use.

80-90% of waste water produced by the fast fashion industry is returned untreated directly into the environment, polluting rivers and groundwater.

Tax F.A.S.T. fashion label

Textile dyeing is the second-largest polluter of water on the planet.

The carbon used to manufacture the product contributes to climate change, including energy not from green sources used in raw materials processing and in factories.

Cotton production uses 4% of all world pesticides and 10% of insecticides.

Fast fashion manufacturers are also not held accountable for the lifecycle of the product.
The average T-shirt is washed 20 times, releasing microfibres into the water supply, and then ends up in landfill. In the UK alone, a staggering 10,000 items of clothing are sent to landfill every five minutes.

‘As it stands, those of us who behave ethically and sustainably, ensuring we are paying living wages, using carbon negative or carbon neutral products within our supply chain, upcycling and reducing pollution – basically behaving as responsible businesses and individuals should – are at a competitive disadvantage to those who behave with unregulated irresponsibility towards our planet and its people. 
 
‘The myth that sustainable and ethical fashion is expensive exists because fast fashion brands are not paying the true cost of the goods they are manufacturing. We should no longer be at a competitive disadvantage to those who behave irresponsibly and unethically. When you consider the real cost of fast fashion, sustainable and ethical items feel very good value.
 
‘Right now, fashion is not fair for the people who make it, for the planet or for the people who buy it. We are out to change that. Whilst it’s often suggested it’s the responsibility of the public to seek out sustainable choices, we think it’s up to industry and government to ensure they’re commonplace.’

JENNIFER GEORGESON
Co-founder of SO JUST SHOP

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