How the Fashion Sector is Dealing with the ESG Practices?

01 AUG 2023

Fast fashion has become the go-to choice for fashionable and affordable clothing for many in recent years. In a time of rapidly changing trends and a large number of customers eager to obtain each season’s ‘must-have piece’ the production of such products in high volumes has become the solution. However, as consumers’ awareness increase questions about the working conditions within the production chain, the quality of garments used and the environmental impact of such fast and massive production arise.

Given this context, major fashion brands are making efforts to address these concerns. It is no surprise that the EU has announced its desire to end fast-fashion by 2030. Consequently fast fashion brands are working on funding initiatives to consumers’ awareness on ESG practices.

With the Covid-19 Pandemic there has been an accelerated and evident perspective shift in social, eco-friendly and ethical responsibility. This has led to a heightened interest in environmental, social and governance (‘ESG’) practices. With fast fashion gaining popularity to meet societal demands, ESG litigation is on the rise. As a result, major fashion brands are directing their fundings on ESG compliance. In this article, Barnes Law looks at the fashion sectors’ recent efforts in adhering to ESG practices.

Looking Beyond the Products

Greater visibility throughout the full lifecycle of products.

Consumerism, capitalism and globalisation have not only impacted the production phase in garment sector but also the cotton plantation. Fast fashion’s increasing demand for cotton has led to the planting of genetically modified cotton which requires more pesticides than organic cotton, causing harm to the environment and nearby communities. Certain popular fashion brands like Mango Zara and Reformation have taken steps to enhance visibility throughout their product’s entire lifecycle.

In late 2022, Mango launched its ‘Sustainable Vision 2030’ strategy with the goal of reducing the environmental and social impacts of its products and operations. Mango aims to include 100% sustainable cotton and 100% recycled polyester within 3 years by moving to a more sustainable collection by 2030 with every fibre of sustainable origin or recycled. Additionally, the brand will give way its criticised ‘Committed’ fashion line to QR codes that will offer valuable information on the composition, design and production location of the product by redirecting them to its website. With this strategy Mango also attempts to stay ahead of potential legislative requirements. The strategy further covers a wider goal that is to reach climate neutrality by 2050 reducing water and plastic consumption, protecting biodiversity with an updated anima welfare policy.

On the other hand, Reformation has introduced ‘RefScale’, a tool that tracks the carbon and water footprint of its products, empowering consumers to make informed choices. Similarly, the brand Baukjen which has the ethos ‘designed for good’ has created its own ‘Sustainability Index Metric’ to help consumers understand the impact of the clothes. And Zara, a Spanish based global brand that is part of Inditex Group,  announced its commitment to adopting a circular economy throughout its value chain on its website.

Next to these above mentioned fashion brands, in mid-June 2023 in total 17 global fashion brands including H&M, Kering Group, Adidas and Marks & Spencer joined a new deforestation-free leather commitment. This initiative is led by non-profits Textile Exchange and Leather Working Group (‘LWG’). The commitment lays out guidance to end deforestation associated with leather production.

All these initiatives are not solely driven by the anticipated legislative requirements. Consumers’ increasing consciousness of ESG values and holding brands accountable cannot be undermined. The number of consumers that are more willing to pay higher prices for clothes is growing day by day.

Working Conditions in Production Lines

Greater determination to tackle human rights abuses in supply chains VS unintended consequences of ceasing to work.

Human rights abuses in garment sector have been widespread, highlighted by the events like the Rana Plaza collapse in Bangladesh in 2013 killing thousands of garment workers, the 2021 military coup in Myanmar. While the former did not influence big brands production, the military coup in Myanmar and the concomitant political instability caused more than 200 000 workers in the garment sector to lose their jobs.

Irish fast-fashion retailer Primark swiftly paused operations in Myanmar after the coup. Although in May 2021 the brand resumed sourcing from the country, a report by the Ethical Trade Initiate (‘ETI’) urged Primark to exist responsibly from the region. A recent closure of Primark’s two suppliers in March 2023, further facilitated the brand’s exit. The brand promptly communicated with the affected 2,200 workers stating its commitment to working closely with the suppliers to ensure that the workers’ rights including compensation and rightful wages, are respected. This move demonstrates an awareness of the possibility of extending a fast-fashion brand’s responsibility throughout the supply and value chains.

Regulatory Scrutiny

Close regulatory scrutiny on ‘sustainability’ labels compels brands to either provide concrete evidence to support their sustainability claims or withdraw them altogether.

The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (‘CMA’) has been taking active role in regulating fashion brands green claims. In early 2023, the CMA initiated an investigation into ASOS’s ‘Responsible Edit’, Boohoo’s ‘Ready for the Future’ and Asda’s ‘George for Good’ marketing strategies. The investigation covers two main aspects: the criteria used by retailers to assess eco-friendliness and the specific standards that products must meet to be labelled as sustainable. Notably, products containing only 20% recycled fabric raised concerns about their eco-friendliness. The CMA also disapproved the use of complex terminology that may confuse consumers.

Although not directly applicable in the UK due the Brexit, the EU proposed a Directive on Green Claims in March 2023. The proposal aims consumer protection by controlling environmental claims and green labels across the Union.

To Label but How to Label?

When a consumer is choosing between two equally viable options, a sustainable certificate can tip the scales in favour of a company who has it against the one who does not. Hence, there is a shift by fashion brands to manufacture garments using accredited materials.

Having an accreditation is a positive step that instils consumer confidence. However, as more brands adopts various accreditations, consumer confusion grows due to the differences between them. In the EU more than 230 sustainability labels have been identified. It becomes more crucial for brands not to exaggerate the importance of their accreditation or overstate the ESG credentials of an accredited product which in either case brings about greenwashing accusations. The brand is perceived as misleading consumers about its real environmental efforts.  To avoid greenwashing claims obtaining worthwhile accreditations is crucial. Brands can achieve this by providing concrete evidence of their adherence to the relevant standards. These standards can be imposed by brands through contractual tools to the participants of the production chain.

For the EU consumers seeking trustworthy labels, the European Commission provides a guidance. EU Ecolabel is one label to trust next to the EU’s official environmental management and audit schemed EMAS. Through EMAS organisations registered to it ensure that all environmental aspects, from energy usage to emissions, are handled in a legally compliant and transparent manner.

Yulia Barnes

Managing Partner

Yulia Barnes is our Managing Partner. She is an experienced solicitor and advises on a wide range of contentious and non-contentious matters for both private and corporate clients.

Experience Yulia started her legal career at a large international Magic Circle firm. She then became a partner at a regional law firm and headed a Dispute Resolution Department. She then moved in-house before starting her own Boutique practice, Barnes Law, with the aim of providing exclusive services to high net-worth individuals and privately-owned businesses. More details can be found on her LinkedIn profile.

Expertise Yulia and her team are widely recognised for their professional and practical approach to matters. She is committed to ensuring that her clients’ objectives are achieved in the most cost-effective way possible.

Approach Yulia has a wealth of experience working with businesses of all sizes: from large multinational corporations to start-ups. She has particular expertise in a hospitality industry, investment funds, private and corporate clients, and focuses on startups and technology-driven companies. Yulia brings the same level of attention to detail, professionalism and a personal touch to every case and client, and truly immerses herself in her clients’ businesses. She prides herself on her problem-solving, commercially astute approach and her track record of partnering with clients to help them achieve their strategic objectives.

Will Moran


Will joined Barnes Law as an Associate Solicitor in Spring 2023, shortly after qualifying in September 2022.

Will works mostly on real estate and corporate/commercial matters. Will enjoys providing advice on transactional matters.

Away from the office, Will can be found reading or playing golf. While he played rugby until university, and rowed throughout his degree, he now tends to watch both from the sidelines. During the winter he can also be found skiing.

Will plans to continue developing his legal skills and experience at Barnes Law, under the expertise and guidance provided by Yulia.

Mark Corran


Mark is an experienced solicitor whose practice areas include intellectual property (IP), IT, data protection and general commercial law.

Mark advises businesses of all sizes – from sole traders to corporations. Among his clients are: clothing and lifestyle brands, restaurants and food suppliers, IT companies, banks, hedge funds and venture capital firms, education providers, medical and pharmaceutical brands.

Outside of his practice, Mark also advises members of the Institute of Directors as part of its Directors’ Advisory Service.

Recent transactions
  • Prosecuting a UK trademark application on behalf of an education provider and representing them in related UK IPO opposition and revocation proceedings;
  • Advising a publisher and a delivery business on data protection matters, B2B and B2C Ts & Cs of sale, website and app Ts & Cs, all aspects of global brand protection;
  • Advising footwear brands, alternative asset managers and hedge funds on their global brand protection, including overcoming various refusals, representing them in opposition proceedings and settlement negotiations;
  • Representing a central bank in opposition proceedings before the UK IPO;
  • Advising a lifestyle brand concerning trademark clearance and protection, negotiations for a website/app development and maintenance agreement.

Ioulia Tatawat

Family Law Adviser

Ioulia has a solid background in family law and offers guidance, clarity, and support to clients during one of their most challenging times in their life.

She advises on all three pillars of separation: divorce, children matters and financial settlements. Ioulia is a member of Resolution and is keen to try to settle matters at early stages.

Ioulia is dedicated to assisting clients and navigating them through their legal matters with clarity and support.

Alex Reidy


Alex joined Barnes Law in September 2023 after finishing his master’s degree in law. Prior to joining Barnes Law, Alex worked in property litigation at Ashfords. Alex assists Yulia on a variety of both contentious and non-contentious matters.

Outside of the office, Alex enjoys reading and hiking. Prior to working in law, Alex was a competitive tennis player.

Alex continues to develop his skills in legal practice under Yulia’s guidance, he plans to sit the Solicitor’s Qualifying Exams (SQE) in 2024.


Mehves Selamoglu


Mehves joined Barnes Law in August 2023, right after graduating from Queen Mary, University of London (LLB Senior Status). As part of her qualification journey, Mehves is currently pursuing her Legal Practice Course (‘LPC’) at the University of Law. She also holds a degree in European Union Law from Maastricht University, Netherlands.

Mehves works closely with Yulia on a variety of contentions matters and also writes Barnes Law’s legal blogs, manages social media accounts and is responsible for marketing.

Outside of work and studies, she enjoys running, tennis and yoga.

Mehves is looking forward to developing her legal skills at Barnes Law.


Julia Podgornova

Investor Relationship Manager

Julia guides clients in making important business decisions based on comprehensive risk assessment and strategy. She supports investors in devising strategies designed to maximise each business’s potential from pre-seed to IPO.

Julia’s particular area of expertise are IT start-ups at different stages. Julia supports business through their fund-raising journey. As an Investor Relations Manager, Julia communicates with investors to facilitate a smooth round and legal part of each transaction.

In her free time Julia enjoys sailing, ballroom dancing, art exhibitions and travel.