The Green Guide: How sustainable is Asos?

How sustainable is your wardrobe? Introducing a column by Jessica Carroll that challenges fashion’s eco credentials. This week, she asks the question: how sustainable is Asos?

asos shoes green guide

Laura point with embellished trim in black polka dot, £22, Asos

Materials

Not a good start. All Asos says about these shoes is that they are a mix of ‘textile’ and ‘other materials’. Other? When contacted, Asos confirmed they are textile, thermoplastic rubber and PU leather, but without making this detailed breakdown easily available, how are shoppers meant to recycle them responsibly?

Suppliers

These were made in China – which means more transport emissions. On the slightly brighter side, Asos is transparent about its suppliers and publishes its factory list on the Open Apparel Registry. By 2030, it plans to have supply chains mapped back to raw-material level for all its own-brand products.

Packaging

This is more promising. The shoes come in a 100 per cent recycled box, within an 80 per cent recycled plastic mailing bag. Asos also encourages customers to send back used bags with any returns – last year, 450 tonnes of old packaging was turned into mailbags. Impressive.

The extra mile

In 2019, Asos signed the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastics Economy Global Commitment, an initiative that encourages a circular economy (where waste is continuously reused to make new products). By formally committing to reducing non-reusable plastic, Asos has made itself accountable. We’d like to see more fast-fashion retailers following suit.

Carbon footprint

Let’s be frank, this is fast fashion, so customers don’t want to wait long for orders. While Asos has been reducing its carbon footprint, air freight, it says, ‘remains an important option for shorter lead times’. It doesn’t state how these shoes got to the UK, but the short lead time plus the long distance suggests they were probably flown here.

Verdict

Yes, Asos has made an effort to encourage recycling and be transparent about suppliers, but it also has more than 85,000 products for sale at any given time – which is never going to encourage people to shop more sustainably. And with its aims to increase own-brand sales by a whopping £1 billion in the medium term, it’s clear that slowing down isn’t on the company’s agenda.

Our rating: 2 stars out of 5. Only tentative attempts at real change.

Fashion director: Shelly Vella