Our editors curate highly rated brands that are first assessed by our rigorous ratings system. Buying through our links may earn us a commission—supporting the work we do. Learn more.
UK fast fashion giant Topshop is lacking action across the board. How ethical is Topshop? In this article, we dive into the brand’s “Not Good Enough” rating, which was published in May 2023 and may not reflect claims the brand has made since then. Our ratings analysts are constantly rerating the thousands of brands you can check on our directory.
Topshop isn’t coming out on top
UK fast fashion giant Topshop had over 500 stores globally at its peak, but after going into administration in late 2020 it was purchased by ASOS. The brand now operates via the ASOS website and can be found in Nordstrom stores in the US. So how does the brand treat people, the planet, and animals? How ethical is Topshop?
In the decade before being purchased by ASOS, Topshop enjoyed global success and collaborations with a number of artists and celebrities. But its prior owner the Arcadia Group was no stranger to controversy, having made headlines due to allegations of labour abuses, including unfair wages paid to garment workers and poor working conditions. Topshop itself also faced allegations, like 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 ASOS-owned Topshop since picked up its ethical game or is it much of the same? Read on to find out.
Topshop has made some small efforts over the years to improve its impact on the planet, but it still has a long way to go before it can be considered an environmentally responsible brand.
Despite 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 lower-impact and recycled materials, the impact of the fast fashion giant on the planet is considerable, 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 minimise textile waste in its supply chain, not does it appear to be taking actions to protect biodiversity.
Topshop does incorporate some lower-impact materials, but its fast fashion 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 more sustainable brand without ditching this practice.
For all these reasons, Topshop’s environmental impact is “Not Good Enough”.
We gave Topshop a labour rating of “Not Good Enough”. While it received an improved score of 51-60% in the 2022 Fashion Transparency Index, not much else has changed.
None of Topshop’s supply chain is certified by crucial labour standards that help ensure worker health and safety and other rights. It has a limited policy to support diversity and inclusion in its direct operations and supply chain, and while it disclosed some policies to protect workers in its supply chain at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, one crucial issue remains: there’s no evidence it ensures workers are paid living wages in its supply chain.
Topshop should prioritise payment of a living wage for its workers if its score here is going to improve.
Topshop received a score of “It’s a Start” for animal welfare.
Although Topshop doesn’t use down, fur, angora, exotic animal skin, or exotic animal hair in its products, it still uses leather and wool in its products without providing any information about where they are sourced from. It does have a policy to source wool from non-mulesed sheep, but unfortunately doesn’t provide any evidence to verify its claims.
Topshop has a formal policy aligned with the Five Freedoms of animal welfare, but few clear implementation mechanisms are in place, and there’s no evidence it traces any animal-derived materials to the first production stage.
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-derived materials in its clothes at all.
Overall rating: Not Good Enough
We’ve given Topshop a rating of “Not Good Enough” overall 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.
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.
So next time you need to fill a gap in your wardrobe, why not give Topshop a miss and choose one of these more ethical brands rated “Good” or “Great” if they meet your needs?
“Good” and “Great” alternatives to Topshop, including second hand options.