We’re all intensely interested in sustainability issues. We’d not want the species to disappear in a howling wasteland of nothingness after all - so we’re pretty interested in making sure that current arrangements are sustainable. Where they aren’t we should do something about it too.
The problem is that as soon as we’ve got this societal agreement that this something is a good idea then the promoters of it go of and change the meanings of the words in use.
For example, perhaps there is something in this idea that clothes should be made for more than a couple of wear. We don’t think so - in fact we’re sure that there isn’t something in it - but it’s a useful concept to consider all the same.
The six companies, which include Amazon UK, JD Sports, Sports Direct and TK Maxx, have not taken any action to reduce their carbon, water and waste footprint. None of them use organic or sustainable cotton and only two – Sports Direct and Boohoo – use recycled material in their products.
The interim report by the environmental audit committee singles out Amazon UK for its notable lack of engagement in sustainability.
As we say we’re fine with considering whether waste etc is sustainable and we’re sure we know the answer too. But looking at the actual report we find something more:
...We also asked four leading online retailers to answer similar questions following evidence at our first hearing about illegally low wages for garment workers .....We believe that there is scope for retailers to do much more to tackle labour market....This is an interim report on the sustainability of the fashion industry
The labour market has nothing to do with sustainability. What wages the workers are paid can be a source of concern, of course it can, but it’s nothing at all to do with whether the system itself can carry on, is sustainable.
And yet in the language of a parliamentary committee wages are a part of that environmental sustainability. For no reason other than the campaigners have done that bait and switch. We out here are convinced that whether the world can carry on for a few more hundred years is important. Under that banner the campaigners have smuggled in their own concerns about wage levels.
It’s in this manner that inequality gets renamed as poverty, legal privilege in favour of previously disadvantaged groups is social justice and so on. We need to be careful abut what concepts are being smuggled into the national discourse in such a manner.