How a uniform condition rating system can help meet the industry’s sustainability targets?


Accountability over waste and carbon produced in the garment industry has meant more commitments to tackle this enormous challenge of meeting climate change targets. Whilst those who understand the complexities of the problems ask; what changes are we going to make? The rest are asking what will our future looks like? A credit rating system for clothes is likely to be a solution that could lead to long term significant change and can be viably adopted. This system would determine how good people, or students, in this case, are at looking after their clothing. By creating criteria that students would be measured against for every uniform item they owned and had not yet reached the end of its lifecycle. It would not be limited to the students. By scoring schools and uniform providers too, they could also achieve a good rating through the initiatives they take. The lifecycle of uniforms will be stretched by incentivising people to return items in good condition so that they may be worn by others. Let’s take a closer look at why these changes could occur soon, what the realities will be like for our children and how it can change things in the future.

Why will these changes occur soon?

Since the COP26 Glasgow climate summit, we have seen some of the largest British fashion houses commit to lowering gas emissions (Harley, 2021). This industry is responsible for 10% of the greenhouse gas emissions made today (Harley, 2021). These companies are looking for solutions to meet these targets desperately. Some companies are maximising the output of production by recycling leather off-cuts to create luxury items and others are going as far as to look at what food scraps can be turned into fibres (Harley, 2021). These examples show how critical a point we are at to meet these targets and desperate to have a significant change. A rating system to assess the condition of uniforms would increase the lifecycle of items already in circulation. Depending on how viability and impactful proposed solutions turn out to be, it may mean that arguments for a rating system would look easier to undertake. Since it is simply a company policy, it has very low start-up costs and controllable implementation costs through simplifying the criteria and standardising quality checking procedures.

How will our everyday lives be affected by a rating system for clothing system?

By willingly opting into a rating system to assess the condition of our clothes, we may have to become conscious of how we wear them. The behavioural change will vary from person to person but in time, it will become a mundane activity that we don’t give a second thought. Although there would be expectations on the condition of the return of the uniforms, it could be easily met through simple advice that people can follow i.e. Don’t go in the mud. Don’t put your uniform on the ground. Wash your items after wearing etc. Since people generally have a good sense of looking after their clothes, it is likely not to lead to much significant change in the short term.

The long-term changes to our lives are harder to predict. One significant change that could happen depends on if more clothing companies adopt the rating system. Fashion brands could see it as a practical way to meet sustainability targets and increase demand for their items. However, companies under pressure to meet sustainability goals may demand a higher rating from their customers to meet those goals. If this is the case, potential customers would have to prove that they can maintain the condition of their items. The rating system students would be subject to for looking after their school uniform could be an opportunity to show other brands that you are a worthy customer.

What changes will come from it?

We would see investment into new types of capital in the fashion industry. Technology that can assess the condition of garments from when they were first made to when they get recollected. This technology will be acquirable by companies who own the product line and eventually by individual purchasers. Since fewer items will have to be made, it would lead to less waste generated per year. Uniform providers will see their inventory get smaller as students will have to share the availability of all the items. Some parents may still want to buy items however, as more people subscribe to the new way of obtaining uniforms, it will lead to an increase in price for purchasable items because it will be more costly to manage. Companies that continue with this business model will have to create a more convincing value proposition. In turn, both these consequences could lead to opportunities to source items domestically.


There will be a lot of significant change from adopting a rating system for the condition of school uniforms. There can be no doubt that we will have to adapt to the changes by becoming more aware of the conditions that we subject our garments to. However, society already has some level of discipline when it comes to looking after their clothes. Depending on the rating policy set by the companies, there will be little deviation from what we already do to maintain our garments. There will be an equal opportunity for everyone in the UK to gain a good rating through applying it to school uniforms, which can be used to convince brands who will likely adopt a rating system in the future to take them on as a customer. Ultimately, the most significant change would be the increase in the likelihood that a uniform reaches the end of its lifecycle. This will lower the demand for new school uniform items which will lead to fewer uniforms made. Simultaneously, it will give everyone in our society an opportunity to be effortlessly rewarded for taking an imitative towards a way we want to live.


Harley, N. (2021). Cop26: How fashion industry aims to make sustainability fashionable. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 25 November 2021].

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