05 Jan

How Ethical Is ASOS?

British company ASOS is one of the world’s most popular online fashion destinations. But is ASOS ethical or sustainable? It’s “Not Good Enough”. This article is based on the ASOS rating published in July 2020.

The realities of fast fashion outweigh convenience

It sells over 850 different brands, and also makes its own range of affordable clothing and accessories. But how ethical is the ASOS private range, and should you be looking elsewhere for your online shopping fix?

While the prospect of cheap and cute fashion delivered to your doorstep is exciting, the low price tags often belie the true cost of fast fashion: questionable labour policies and production processes that are detrimental to the environment. So let’s take a look at the impact of ASOS on people, the planet, and animals and answer: how ethical is ASOS?

Environmental impact

We rated ASOS’s environmental impact “Not Good Enough”. The brand has made a public commitment and has set an intensity target to be a net zero emissions company by 2030, but there is no evidence it has set an absolute target. The ASOS brand uses some eco-friendly materials in its clothing, but there is no evidence it minimises textile waste when manufacturing its products. In addition to this, we found no evidence ASOS implements water reduction initiatives in most of its supply chain.

In 2010, ASOS introduced a collection called the “Responsible Edit”—a selection of clothing, accessories, and beauty products marketed for a lower environmental impact. ASOS private label clothing comprises about a quarter of this collection with pieces made in conjunction with fair labour partners in Kenya, and some lower impact fabrics like Tencel.

This is certainly not good enough for such a large company. It’s a sign that customer demand for ethical products is growing, and the company is responding. However, this collection only accounts for a small percentage of the total items made by ASOS: the rest of the range isn’t covered by strong policies that look to reduce the impact of the production stages. “Eco collections” by major brands are often signs of greenwashing.

Labour conditions

ASOS’ labour rating is also “Not Good Enough”. Almost none of its supply chain is certified by labour standards which ensure worker health and safety, living wages, or other labour rights, and it received a score of 41-50% in the Fashion Transparency Index. ASOS publishes a detailed list of suppliers in the final stage of production and some information about the second stage of production, as well as some policies to protect suppliers and workers in its supply chain from the impacts of COVID-19. The brand likely publishes information about its supplier policies, audits, and remediation processes, and may be publishing some information about forced labour, gender equality, or freedom of association. The most problematic issue, however, is that we found no evidence it ensures payment of a living wage in its supply chain when it can certainly afford it.

Animal welfare

ASOS rates “It’s a Start” for animal welfare: it has a formal animal welfare policy aligned with Five Freedoms, does not use angora, fur, down, exotic animal skin or hair, and sources wool from non-mulesed sheep. Even if ASOS has committed to eliminating some animal products by a set date, it does still use leather without specifying sources.

Overall rating: Not Good Enough

So, how ethical and sustainable is ASOS? ASOS is rated “Not Good Enough” overall. Some progress has been made by implementing measures to reduce carbon emissions; banning fur and other animal-based materials, and offering a more conscious collection. However, much more can still be done. ASOS needs to improve in all areas to achieve a higher score.

Note that Good On You ratings consider hundreds of issues, and it is not possible to list every relevant issue in a summary of the brand’s performance. For more information, see our How We Rate page and our FAQs.

See the rating.

So, our take? If you’ve got an ASOS habit that just won’t give, check out the Responsible Edit for better choices. Or even better, try ASOS stocked brands that we rate highly, such as People Tree.

Good swaps

If you’re trying to break up with fast fashion, why not have a look at these “Good” and “Great” alternatives to ASOS.

Afends

Rated: Good
two images of people in tops, shirts and trousers

Offers

Black and white shot of the BROCCOLI Magazine and Afends fashion collaboration.

Afends – Broccoli Collab

The collab everyone has been waiting for: Afends x Broccoli Magazine. Cut from hemp and organic cotton. Step into a new dimension with this super limited capsule. Exclusive 15% off with code GOODBROCCOLI. (Ends: 30 SEP)

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Shop now
Two people outdoors wearing recycled Afends collection clothes.

Afends – Recycled Collection

Explore Afends' Recycled Collection, created with recycled and organic cotton. From pants to tees and sweats, featuring a slew of new prints. Exclusive 20% off with code RECYCLED20. (Ends: 30 SEP)

Checkout code: RECYCLED20
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Born in Byron Bay, Afends is a responsible brand leading the way in hemp fashion. Drawing inspiration from the environment, streetwear, and surf culture, Afends’ mission is to create more sustainable clothing through innovation, action, and positive change. As true hemp advocates, they purchased 100 acres of farmland called Sleepy Hollow to grow their own hemp crops and ignite the hemp revolution. Explore their range made from 100% eco-conscious threads.

See the rating.

Shop Afends.

MATE the Label

Rated: Great

MATE the Label creates clean essentials made with GOTS certified organic fabrics and low-impact dyes. Its goal is to offer women everywhere a clean product that is just as beautiful as it is sustainable. It is proudly female-founded and is predominately operated by women. This US brand also manufactures locally to reduce its carbon footprint. Find the range in inclusive sizes XS-3XL.

See the rating.

Shop MATE the Label.

Plant Faced Clothing

Rated: Good

Streetwear without sweatshops, that's the motto of this British 100% plant-based, ethical, eco-friendly, and cruelty-free streetwear apparel brand. Buy Plant Faced Clothing in sizes XS-2XL.

See the rating.

Shop Plant Faced Clothing.

ABLE

Rated: Good

ABLE is a US-based clothing and accessories brand that works with communities all over the world to make a meaningful impact, producing slow fashion that pays a living wage to women who have faced extraordinary circumstances. It uses eco-friendly materials, and reuses water and materials to minimise waste. With thoughtful design and a level of quality that guarantees its products for life, its pieces aren't just an investment for your wardrobe, they are an investment in women around the world. Find the range in sizes 2XS-2XL.

See the rating.

Shop ABLE.

People Tree

Rated: Great

Offers

Someone wearing a red organic shirt by People Tree.

People Tree EU – Organic Clothing

Celebrate Organic September with People Tree. Choose toxin-free clothing than protects biodiversity, saves water, and is safe for farmers and workers. 15% off organic clothing with code ORGANIC. (Available in Europe only) (Ends: 28 SEP)

Checkout code: ORGANIC
Shop now

Sustainable fashion pioneer and leader People Tree is a seriously ethical brand and one of our favourites. The brand uses eco-friendly materials and addresses labour risks by adopting the Fairtrade International - Small Producers Organisations Code of Conduct. Find most products in UK sizes 6-18.

See the rating.

Shop People Tree UK.

Shop People Tree EU.

Shop People Tree @ Wearwell.

In the Soulshine

Rated: Good

In the Soulshine is a brand that loves fashion, but doesn't want to exploit people or destroy our planet in the process.

See the rating.

Shop In the Soulshine.

Editor's note

Feature image via ASOS, all other images via brands mentioned. Good On You publishes the world's most comprehensive ratings of fashion brands’ impact on people, the planet, and animals. Use the directory to search thousands of rated brands. To support our work, we may earn a commission on sales made using our offer codes or affiliate links.

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