Sustainability in fashion – is Scotland doing enough?

As part of The Herald COP26: A Catalyst for Change event in association with CMS, we have Anthony Burns, Chief Operating Officer at ACS Clothing as one of our expert panellists. ACS Clothing is an end-to-end fashion rental, returns and re-commerce service. They have put sustainability at the heart of what they do, with a goal to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2025. In adopting greener practices, they have significantly cut operating costs and put themselves on track to meet their target.

We sat down with Anthony to find out why fighting the climate crisis is so important, what Scotland is doing well, and where things can be improved:

Why are you passionate about sustainability and fighting the climate crisis?

“As an Executive of a SME in the world’s second most polluting industry, Sustainability has transformed both my, and my colleagues, jobs into a vocation. I believe I am part of something greater now, and I am making a difference. My focus is more on protecting the environment, improving biodiversity and helping enhance the lives of our people and the local community. And the interesting part is my company now has growth plans in place that will increase our turnover exponentially. In fact, if we had not embraced the opportunities in sustainability at my company, the impact of the pandemic would probably have closed us.”

With regards to climate change and sustainability, which areas do you think Scotland is excelling in and which areas do you think need improved upon?

“I welcome, and I am very proud, of the aggressive targets the Scottish Government has set – to be net zero by 2045 sent a strong message to the rest of the world.

I personally feel Scotland is excelling in Fashion and Textiles, and a foundation exists which will nurture Scotland to be the international centre of expertise in sustainable fashion.

I’d like to see more investment in innovation and training to help us to become more sustainable – every step I make towards net zero is becoming 3-times harder than the previous. We need more support in terms of innovation, green skills development and greater partnership.”

Do you think public attitudes in Scotland are conducive to tackling climate change? If not, what action can be taken to increase public support?

“The public are recognising the gluttony of Fast Fashion, and are intimating a move towards more sustainable choices. They are also upping their hygiene expectations and taking more health precautions. There is a recognisable shift in the perception of clothing from a disposable item to a reusable durable product.

I’d like this to happen quicker; and I believe that much more work is required to help shift public attitudes. My desire is help people focus on the wonderful positive aspects of Sustainable Fashion and yes we are working with various wonderful groups throughout Scotland to help change attitudes – but we need more help.”

If one action could come out of COP26 that would drive real progress in tackling the world’s climate crisis, what would you want that action to be?

“Simply put I would like to eliminate VAT from Sustainable Fashion and Textiles. Organisations like ACS pay the real living wage, provide safe healthy workplaces, look after staff welfare, operate circular business models and focus on eliminating carbon from our supply chains. This costs money and can be a challenge when competing with global fast fashion companies – eliminating VAT will help level the ‘playing field’.”

The Herald COP26: A Catalyst for Change in association with CMS is a free-to-attend virtual event. It will discuss how Scotland can seize the opportunities of COP26 as a springboard for change and ensure it has a meaningful and enduring legacy. The event will highlight some of the incredible work already happening across Scotland and address how we can continue, and build upon, this in the years to come.

The event takes place on Thursday, September 16 from 9am until 11am. Join the discussion by registering for your place on the dedicated event website at

The event will be held via the Hopin online events platform. For more information contact Linsey Hunter, events manager, by emailing