How Ethical is ASOS? - Good On You
28 Oct

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 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.

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 reduce its greenhouse gas emissions from its own operations and supply chain by 2020, 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 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 the impact of the production stages.

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. Even more problematic than this lack of transparency is that we found no evidence it ensures payment of a living wage in its supply chain.

Animal Welfare

ASOS rates ‘good’ for animal welfare: it has a formal animal welfare policy aligned with Five Freedoms, does not use angora, fur, or exotic animal skin, 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, mohair, alpaca, and cashmere without specifying sources.

Overall Rating

ASOS is rated ‘Not Good Enough’ overall. Some progress has been made by implementing measures to reduce carbon emissions; banning fur, and offering a more conscious collection. However, much more can still be done. ASOS needs to improve in all areas.

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!

And if you’re trying to break up with fast fashion, why not have a look at these sustainable alternatives to ASOS:

Afends

Rated: Good

Afends is an Australia-based fashion brand leading the way in organic hemp fashion, using renewable energy in its supply chain to reduce its climate impact. You can find the full range in sizes XS-XL.

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.

People Tree

Rated: Great

Sustainable fashion pioneer and leader People Tree is a ‘Great’ 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 to 18.

See the rating.

Shop People Tree.

Shop People Tree @ thegreenlabels.

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

This article was published in 2017 and updated in October 2020. 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 more than 2,500 brands. To support our work, we may earn a commission on sales made using our offer codes or affiliate links.

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