I have long supported and encouraged sustainable fashion and the Government recognises the importance of buying practices which do not harm the planet. Before being appointed to a Ministerial position, I co-chaired the APPG on sustainable fashion. You can read about this work here: https://www.mimsdavies.org.uk/news/mims-co-chairs-appg-ethical-fashion
It is unacceptable that small businesses routinely spend significant time and resources chasing late payments from businesses they supply which can lead to cash flow problems, putting their firms at risk and preventing them from growing. Many small businesses do not have large balance sheets and cannot accommodate long payment terms or delays to receiving payment within their cash flow cycle.
Like me, I am sure you will be pleased to know it has been made a legal requirement for the UK’s largest businesses to publish information on their payment practices, including the average amount of time taken to pay their suppliers. My Ministerial colleagues acknowledge that late payment remains a significant problem for SMEs, and they are working to address it.
You will be reassured to know that the Business Secretary has recently announced an in-depth review into tackling late payments for small businesses, while urging large companies to pay their smaller suppliers promptly. The review will scrutinise existing payment practices and the measures in place to make sure small firms are not ripped off by their larger clients – with over £23.4 billion currently owed in outstanding invoices to UK businesses.
Since October 2020, a wide group of stakeholders, comprising retailers, manufacturers and non-profit organisations have also been working with the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority to address poor practice and working conditions.
The Government is also clear that it expects all UK businesses, including the fashion industry, to respect human rights throughout their operations, in line with the UN Guiding Principles. Section 54 of the Modern Slavery Act places a requirement on businesses with a turnover of £36 million or more, to publish an annual modern slavery statement setting out the steps they have taken to prevent modern slavery in their supply chains. The "Work in Freedom" programme has supported 433,650 women and girls in the garment sector in South Asia, Lebanon and Jordan with training and access to services since 2018.
I hope this update provides a useful outline of the steps the Government is taking to tackle unfair and unethical trading practices by UK brands and retailers.