14 Feb

How Ethical is ASOS?

Over the past few years, British company ASOS has blown up and become one of the world’s most popular online fashion destinations. 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 excites us all, 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.

Environmental Impact:

ASOS has made a public commitment to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 and it purchases renewable energy for part of its direct operations. It implements emission reduction measures in its warehouses and during the delivery process, and it has moved to reduce the amount of waste that comes from its packaging. However, these policies don’t appear to apply to ASOS’ own brand supply chain. The ASOS brand doesn’t use many eco-friendly materials in its clothing, and there has been no commitment to eliminate the use of hazardous chemicals in the production of materials.

In 2010, ASOS introduced a collection called the ‘Eco Edit’ — a selection of clothing, accessories and beauty products marketed for its 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 a start for ASOS. 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 their impact in the making stages.

Labour Conditions:

Since 2009 ASOS has been a member of the Ethical Trade Initiative (ETI), which promotes respect for workers’ rights internationally. ASOS uses the ETI’s code of conduct and states that the company is monitored and audited. However, the audit results that are published are not comprehensive enough, and ASOS doesn’t publish a list of direct suppliers on its website. It has also made little to no progress towards ensuring payment of a living wage in its supply chain.

Animal Welfare:

ASOS has banned the use of angora and other furs in its products, and claims to use wool from non-mulesed sheep. However, it does use leather, mohair, alpaca, and cashmere without specifying sources.

Overall Rating: It's A Start

Rated: It's A Start

ASOS is rated as ‘It's A Start’ in the Good On You app. Some progress has been made by: implementing measures to reduce carbon emissions; banning fur; offering a more conscious collection; and collaborating with ETI to improve labour conditions. However, much more can still be done. ASOS needs to improve in all areas.

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

Editor's note: Feature image via Asos. This post was updated in August 2019.

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