How Ethical Is Topshop? - Good On You
27 Jan

How Ethical Is Topshop?

NOTE: As of July 2020 this brand has an updated rating in the Directory which you can check here for the latest info. This article will be updated soon to reflect any changes in scoring.

With over 500 stores across the globe, UK fast-fashion giant Topshop doesn’t look like it intends to slow down anytime soon. But how does the brand treat people, the planet and animals?

Over the past decade, Topshop has enjoyed global success and collaborations with a number of artists and celebrities. But its owner the Arcadia Group has been no stranger to controversy, having made headlines over the past decade due to allegations of labour abuses, including unfair wages paid to garment workers and poor working conditions. Topshop itself has also faced allegations, including when it was claimed Topshop x Beyonce’s Ivy Park collection’s mostly female garment workers were toiling under unfair conditions despite the range supposedly promoting female empowerment.

So after running a gauntlet of bad headlines and controversy, has Topshop since picked up its ethical game? Read on to find out.

Environmental Impact

Topshop has made some effort to improve its impact on the planet, but it still has a long way to go before it can become truly sustainable.

Topshop is a member of the Better Cotton Initiative, which aims to help farmers produce cotton in a more sustainable way. However, it is unclear how much of the cotton Topshop uses is Better Cotton. Another eco-conscious initiative is the release of its CONSIDERED collection, as well as a vegan shoe collection in 2019, in an attempt to lower its environmental impact by using eco-friendly and recycled materials.

But these collections’ effectiveness in reducing the impact of the fast fashion giant on the planet is questionable, as it still relies on the mass production of brand new clothing.

What’s more, there is no evidence that it has taken any meaningful action to reduce or eliminate hazardous chemicals, or that it implements water reduction initiatives.

But even if Topshop does incorporate more sustainable materials, as one of the world’s biggest fast fashion chains, Topshop’s business model is inherently unsustainable. By emphasising fleeting trends over timeless designs and producing huge amounts of poorly-made clothes, it’s hard to see how Topshop can become a truly ethical brand without ditching a fast fashion model. For all these reasons, its environmental impact is ‘Not Good Enough’.

Labour Conditions

We gave Topshop a labour rating of ‘Not Good Enough’ based on the 2018 Ethical Fashion Report and our own research. Very few of its facilities have worker empowerment initiatives such as collective bargaining or rights to make a complaint.

Topshop traces and monitor all of its suppliers at the final manufacturing stage, but it can only trace between 1-25% of suppliers at the raw materials and inputs stages. However, the brand has put measures in place to trace its suppliers and countries of origin at all levels of the supply chain, which is a promising move. Topshop publicly lists some of its suppliers at the final production stage, and only audits some of its traced facilities.

Concerningly, issues relating to slave labour and child labour are yet to be adequately addressed by Topshop. While the brand also has a Code of Conduct that covers all of the ILO principles, it has made little to no progress towards ensuring payment of a living wage.

Topshop needs to improve its transparency surrounding its labour practices. The brand could start by releasing information about how it monitors the factories its products are sourced from, tracing its suppliers at all stages, making a public list of those suppliers and the countries of origin of its products, and finally, paying all of its workers a living wage.

Animal Welfare

Topshop received a score of ‘It’s a Start’ for animal welfare. Although Topshop has banned the use of angora, down, exotic animal skin and fur in its products, it still uses leather, mohair and wool in its products without providing any information about where they are sourced from. The welfare of both animals and workers cannot be guaranteed when the source of these materials is unknown. Topshop could improve its score in this area by being more transparent about where it gets its leather and wool from, or even better, by not using animal products in its clothes at all!

Overall Rating: It’s a Start

We’ve given Topshop a rating of ‘It’s a Start’ based on information from our own research.

Topshop needs to do much more to improve its practices in all areas. While Topshop appears to be putting some measures in place to shrink its carbon footprint, none of them apply to the resource-intensive garment manufacturing process, which is the most important thing that the brand needs to address if it hopes to become more sustainable.

And in facing a number of allegations of labor abuse over the years, Topshop has shown time and time again that it’s willing to put profit over people. The brand needs to improve its transparency and trace its suppliers across all levels of the supply chain in order to ensure that workers are being treated fairly. Implementing a living wage wouldn’t be a bad idea either!

See the rating.

So next time you need to fill up a gap in your wardrobe, why not give Topshop a miss and choose one of these ethical brands rated ‘Good’ or ‘Great’ on the Good On You app?

Good Swaps

Ethical Alternatives to Topshop

Christy Dawn

Rated: Great

Willa Dress in Peony Bloom – Ships internationally


sustainable dresses by ethical brand Christy Dawn

Christy Dawn – Dresses

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ethical olive jumpsuit from Christy Dawn

Christy Dawn – Jumpsuits

Handmade in deadstock fabric with a nod to vintage rompers and traditional workwear, these jumpsuits have you covered for every occasion. 15% off Christy Dawn jumpsuits with code GOODONYOU15. (Ends: 31 OCT)

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woman wearing white and blue long top from sustainable brand Christy Dawn

Christy Dawn – Tops

Vintage-style tops that are effortlessly elevated and feminine. Wear them to a special occasion, or pair with your favourite vintage denim. 15% off Christy Dawn tops with code GOODONYOU15. (Ends: 31 OCT)

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sustainably made face masks by ethical brand Christy Dawn

Christy Dawn – Masks

Non-medical grade masks made with deadstock cotton, linen, and silk. They're sustainable, reusable, and washable. 15% off Christy Dawn face masks with code GOODONYOU15. (Ends: 31 OCT)

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Christy Dawn is a minimalist showroom for vintage-inspired women’s clothing and footwear, locally made with surplus fabric. The brand rates ‘Great’, making it a fabulous boho option for your wardrobe.

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Shop Christy Dawn.

Seek Collective

Rated: Good

Zoe Top – Ships internationally

Seek Collective is a line of elevated essentials inspired by the global woman blended with art, craft, and design.

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Shop Seek Collective.

MUD Jeans

Rated: Great

Skinny Hazen in Stone Black – Ships internationally

Dutch denim brand MUD Jeans is all about sustainability. Not only does it offer a repair service, but it also provides a rental service where you can lease a pair of jeans for up to a year! MUD Jeans uses a combination of GOTS and Better Cotton Initiative certified organic cotton.

See the rating.

Shop MUD Jeans.

Whimsy + Row

Rated: Good

Norah Pants in Shiny Black – Ships internationally

This LA-based brand makes truly affordable ethical fashion that looks great – a rare find indeed.  By limiting each garment to short runs, Whimsy + Row utilise deadstock fabric, reduce packaging waste and take care of precious water resources.

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Editor's note

Feature image via Topshop, 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 our Directory to search more than 2,000 brands. We may earn a commission on sales made using our offer codes or affiliate links.

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