In the UK, the CMA and the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) have made environmental claims a priority. In the UK, we have not introduced new rules in any material sense, and we might not need new rules, as these regulators have simply decided to interpret the existing rules wish fresh eyes, and to apply these rules with dramatically more zeal. These rules include the general rules around misleading claims and unfair commercial practices in the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (enforced by the CMA, Trading Standards and others), and the CAP Codes (enforced by the ASA).
Whether or not legislators, the press, the public, businesses, or the regulators themselves will call for more specific or stricter rules, including via primary legislation, will remain to be seen.
Personally, I would like to see more research into consumer understanding of various terms such as ‘sustainable’ and ‘net zero’ and for that to result in clearer guidance, but not necessarily new legislation.
In the fashion sector, it is up to companies to make choices that reduce the amount of plastic in the products themselves, and to switch to other, less harmful materials. But that is just one issue. The United Nations Environment Programme Sustainable and Circular Textiles (UNEP) plays an active role consulting stakeholders across the supply chain in defining priorities, and companies can and should engage with others to see what more they can do up and down the supply chain.
More broadly, I would like to see greater consistency when it comes to labels on plastic (or otherwise harmful) packaging. For example, in much the same way that we are presented with traffic lights and percentages for the nutritional profiles of the food we buy, a simple label on all packaging to confirm whether any plastic packaging itself is 100% recycled, reusable and 100% recyclable would be a good start. Single use plastic packaging that isn’t 100% recycled and 100% recyclable should be discouraged and eventually eradicated where possible, using taxation or other financial levers. When we see how much waste each of us generates in our homes, it shows us the tip of a very horrible plastic iceberg, but it shows that small steps on a very large scale can have a very significant impact. The sad but obvious truth is that not all recyclable materials are recycled, so telling ourselves that 100% recyclable plastic packaging will not find its way into landfill or the oceans is hopelessly naïve, so we do need to take drastic action, and legislation will be needed to come up with effective solutions to these problems.