Over the past few years, British brand ASOS has become one of the biggest online fashion retailers worldwide.
They sell over 850 clothing brands on their website, and also make their own range of affordable clothing.
With so many items to choose from it’s no wonder that they’re consistently rated in the top ten lists of online shopping sites.
As the popularity of online shopping has grown, more people are beginning to discuss the impact of “fast fashion”, whether that be environmentally or ethically.
The fashion industry is coming under much more scrutiny about their shady manufacturing processes than they have in the past, as people are beginning to realize just how damaging fast fashion can be.
But what is fast fashion? And is ASOS only making the problem worse?
If you’re interested in making better clothing choices to help improve the environment, then read on to learn all about this and more ways that ASOS may not be as good of a brand as you think.
What Is Fast Fashion?
Fast fashion brands produce a high volume of clothes throughout the year, with their selection constantly changing and being updated so that often there are new items every week.
The clothes made are very cheap, making them popular with customers. If bought online they usually arrive within a day or two which is also a draw for buyers as they can update their wardrobes for any occasion quickly.
The materials used in these clothing items are often very low quality, which saves on overall price but also means that they wear out quickly.
This traps customers in a cycle of buying as they sometimes need to replace what they bought after only a few wears.
Fast fashion impacts everything from the environment to individual people’s health and wellbeing.
This is because companies often use questionable labor policies on their workers, making them work long hours in dangerous conditions for very little pay.
With this in mind, it’s clear that ASOS is a fast fashion brand. Read on to find out more about the company’s impact on the environment and their workforce, and what they’re doing to try and make positive changes to their manufacturing processes.
Currently, just 34% of all the fibers used in ASOS brands come from sustainable sources, which while better than some companies still is a very low number. The blame for this cannot be placed fully on ASOS’s shoulders though.
As they are a retailer selling hundreds of brands, it’s these brands themselves that need to make positive changes to their own manufacturing processes to raise this number.
The ASOS brand itself does use more eco-friendly materials in their products, but it’s not enough to offset the damage done by the other brands who sell through the company.
One of the biggest ways that fast fashion impacts the environment is through the huge amount of water that is used in the manufacturing process. Water is often redirected to flow through the factories, which can cause droughts in the local area.
If the water is released after being used then it can be harmful to any people or animals who drink it as it can contain harsh chemicals from the factories.
To try and offset their environmental impact, ASOS launched the Responsible Edit clothing line in 2010. These products are made from 50% recycled or sustainable materials, and a minimum of 20% recycled cotton.
This process uses a lot less water than traditional manufacturing methods, lowering the chance of droughts. So while this is a step in the right direction, ASOS should still do more to try and get all their products to be made in this way.
In an attempt to lower their carbon footprint and improve their practices, in 2017 ASOS signed the 2025 Sustainable Sources Challenge, which calls on brands to use 100% sustainable cotton by 2025.
As said above, currently just 36% of fibers used in ASOS are sustainably sourced, so they have very little time left to achieve this goal.
All around, ASOS seems to be trying to improve their sustainability levels, and are even finding some success.
But until every brand they sell follows suit and also makes meaningful changes to their practices, ASOS as a whole will continue to be an environmentally damaging brand.
Another issue with fast fashion is that the people who make the clothes are often treated horribly.
Usually, they’re underpaid and forced to work long hours in dirty and dangerous conditions, but they have no other way of making an income and so are forced to stay.
Though for their Responsible Edit collection pieces are made according to fair labor practices in Kenya, the same cannot be said for the rest of their clothing lines.
Almost none of their supply chain is certified by labor standards, which ensure workers get a living wage, have health and safety measures in place, and have various other labor rights.
ASOS also is not very transparent about its supply chain in general, which is a huge issue when it comes to worker safety.
There is no evidence that they pay their workers a fair and living wage, and very little has been published about gender equality or freedom of association in their factories.
ASOS needs to be much more transparent in its labor practices for any positive changes to be made in the company.
Unfortunately, a complete overall of the practices would be very expensive for ASOS to conduct, making it less likely that they’ll even bother trying.
So Should I Stop Shopping At ASOS?
While the choice is yours, one of the best ways to get brands to make changes to their manufacturing processes is to shop elsewhere.
As more people are beginning to realize the impacts of their shopping habits, many customers are moving on to more ethical brands anyways.
Despite knowing all the harm that ASOS does, it can still be easy to be drawn back in thanks to their cheap prices and the convenience of online shopping.
It’s likely that for as long as people shop at ASOS, they will continue with their damaging practices.