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Corporate Responsibility

Sustainable Sourcing Programme

We’re using our growing global reach to promote products that are socially and environmentally responsible.

We’re also passionate about engaging our customers on sustainability.

Sustainable sourcing pillars

Our sustainable sourcing programme comprises four pillars:

  • Traceability of raw materials: Mapping our commodities to better understand and influence how they are sourced.
  • Lowering environmental impact: Increasing the conversion from traditional materials and processes to lower-impact alternatives.
  • Craftsmanship: Investing in suppliers and projects that support local skills and community development.
  • Engaging customers on sustainability: Providing customers with opportunities to buy sustainable fashion and to reduce their environmental footprints.

It’s our mission to keep fashion moving forward in the most sustainable way, ensuring that customers never have to compromise on choice.

Tara Luckman
Sustainable Fashion and Fabric Manager, ASOS

Related codes and policies

The following documents also guide our sustainable sourcing approach:

  • Environmental Policy: Sets out ASOS’ environmental commitments and how we will achieve them.
  • ASOS Supplier Ethical Code: Defines the minimum ethical and environmental standards that we require from all of our suppliers and factories.
  • ASOS Animal Welfare Policy and Guidelines: The policy defines the good practice animal welfare standards we require our suppliers to meet; the guidelines provide buyers and suppliers with further information on how they can achieve our standards.

Dedicated Sustainable Sourcing team

Our Sustainable Sourcing team sits within ASOS’ Sourcing Department to better embed sustainability considerations into our retail operations.

The team consists of seven sustainability experts who advise our internal teams and suppliers on how to design and source more sustainable products, help our customers reduce their own environmental footprints and participate in working groups and initiatives so that we can better understand, measure and reduce our environmental impacts.

Read more about the organisations we collaborate with here.

2020 commitment

The Sustainable Clothing Action Plan (SCAP) aims to assess clothing production across its lifecycle to find ways to make it less wasteful, and to reduce its carbon and water footprints.

As a signatory to SCAP’s 2020 Commitment we are aiming to reduce the carbon, water and waste footprint of our own-label clothing by 15% by 2020 and are using SCAP’s assessment tool to measure and report on our progress.

Pillar 1: traceability of raw materials

We’re committed to building full transparency of our supply chain down to raw-material level. To achieve this we are:

  • In the process of mapping our supply chain beyond tier-one and two suppliers.
  • Trialling a supply chain mapping system to record supplier relationship and performance information.
  • Meeting regularly with our own-label suppliers to build trust and encourage supply chain transparency.
  • Collaborating with organisations such as the Better Cotton Initiative and the Leather Working Group to help us better understand the complex nature of clothing supply chains. Read more about our partnerships here.

Pillar 2: Lowering the environmental impacts of raw materials

By working closely with suppliers and expert organisations to source more sustainable raw materials, we’re able to reduce our carbon, water and waste footprint, limit chemical and pesticide usage, prevent deforestation and protect fresh water and biodiversity.

Cotton: Our primary focus has been on cotton as it is the most resource-intensive natural material we use -it makes up the largest proportion of all fibres we source. We have increased our target from reaching 80% more sustainable cotton by 2020 to sourcing 95% by 2020. In May 2017, ASOS and 12 other companies came together to sign a pledge to use 100% sustainable cotton by 2025. In 2016, we procured 5230 metric tonnes of cotton of which 1967 or 38% was more sustainable cotton. Read our cotton case studies to find out more.

ASOS is technology neutral. We believe farmers should have the freedom to choose to use genetically modified seeds.

Our Ethical Trade Programme aims to ensure the rights of workers in our supply chain are respected and protected. We are a member of the Better Cotton Initiative which does not allow Uzbek cotton to be sold by international traders or merchants as part of its Better Cotton standard. This is because forced labour is prevalent in Uzbekistan’s cotton fields.

As we work towards our target of including 95% more sustainable cotton in our ranges by 2020 we are becoming increasingly confident our cotton is being sourced more ethically and more sustainably. Sourcing BCI, CmiA and organic cotton helps protect biodiversity, reduce water, pesticide and fertilizer use and prevents soil erosion, while preventing unsafe and oppressive working conditions.  We are encouraged by the ILO engagement with the Uzbek government on this issue and look forward to the day when Uzbek cotton farmers will benefit from the methodologies of Better Cotton.

ASOS is also greatly concerned about the environmental impact of the Uzbekistan cotton industry, particularly on the Aral Sea.

Cellulosic fibre/wood: We are working towards making sure our clothing supply chain is free from cellulosic fibre such as rayon, viscose and lyocell sourced from ancient or endangered forests in 2017, and ensuring any wood used in our products and operations is FSC certified or traceable in 2017. Read the Canopy case study to find out more.

Recycled fibre: We want to increase the amount of recycled materials in our ranges to help us reduce our environmental impacts further. Working with the buying teams we are developing a recycled fibre strategy for departments that use large volumes of synthetic fibres, cotton, denim or wool.

Lowering the environmental impact of our processes

Our suppliers and partner organisations are also helping us to reduce the impact of manufacturing processes on the environment and on the health of those working and living in and around the sites where our products are made.

Wet processes: Wet processes such as dyeing and finishing a product can use substantial amounts of water, involve large quantities of dyes and chemicals whilst leaving behind polluting residues. Denim is a priority area for us and we are working with our denim suppliers to encourage them to use methods that use less water and chemicals, such as ozone and enzyme finishing. Read our denim case study here.

Sandblasting: Apparel sandblasting involves projecting fine sand with compressed air to create a worn look on denim and other products. Sandblasting can be extremely damaging to the health of workers and can lead to a potentially fatal lung disease called silicosis. ASOS has banned the use of sandblasting – however, exceptions may be made on a case-by-case basis whereby a supplier is able to demonstrate thorough health and safety protocols, including ensuring the process takes place in a separate, well-ventilated and enclosed room away from where other people are working.

Leather production: The cocktail of chemicals often used to tan leather, combined with solid waste from processing, are sometimes discharged into water courses in developing countries without being treated. This can cause soil, water and air pollution. Read more about the work we are doing to reduce the environmental and health impacts of leather here and here.

Chrome VI is a heavy metal which is often formed from Chromium III chemicals used in leather tanning. We are working with our suppliers to ensure that all of the leather used in our products is compliant with REACH Chrome VI regulations, and we regularly test all of our own-label leather items to check suppliers are meeting these requirements. We are also educating our suppliers on how to reduce the formation of this chemical at the source of production

Chemical management: In addition to meeting global regulatory compliance for the business, we also have a thorough product surveillance programme in place which includes mandatory testing requirements for high risk products, such as PU or PVC, as well as testing a proportion of all of our other own-label products before they go on sale. We use the results from the product surveillance programme to increase awareness and develop continuous improvement training programmes for both suppliers and commercial teams.

Pillar 3: Craftsmanship

Now in its 14th season, ASOS Made in Kenya is our Eco Edit flagship brand. The collection is designed in-house, then cut and manufactured by SOKO, the Kenyan clothing workshop that provides fair and safe employment and training for some of the country’s poorest communities. We recently sponsored leadership and communications training programmes attended by all SOKO Kenya employees, as well as launching a Stitching Academy – a training programme for tailors in the community around SOKO Kenya.

Pillar 4: Engaging customers on sustainability

We want to make it easy for our customers to buy more sustainable fashion and beauty products, so they can reduce their own environmental footprints.

  • Eco Edit (previously The Green Room) launched for Womenswear in 2010. It’s the section of our website where our customers can find out about and buy pioneering sustainable fashion and beauty and just one of the ways ASOS promotes products that are made by manufacturers and brands using sustainable business practices. We have a target to reach £30m in value by 2020, up from £8m in 2015.
  • We tag all products with a social or environmental benefit with a 'Signpost' image. We want to make it as easy as possible for customers to buy into this side of what we do.
  • ASOS Marketplace is a platform that allows customers to shop vintage and boutique fashion. 66% of all products sold through the platform are vintage and pre-worn items.
  • We are reviewing opportunities to increase the emotional and physical durability of our clothing, such as reversible clothing for multi-styling.
  • We encourage customers to wash clothes at a lower temperature on ASOS care labels.
  • We are helping customers recycle their clothing through our new partnership with Doddle. Read more about this here.
  • As a member of SCAP we support the Love Your Clothes campaign – helping the general public reduce their carbon and water footprint, while encouraging recycling.

Promoting sustainable fashion inside ASOS

We want to empower our Buying, Design and Merchandising teams to take ownership of our sustainable sourcing commitments and programmes. We’ve developed a number of resources to help them do this:

  • Supplier scorecards: We produce supplier scorecards to provide buyers with a summary of a supplier’s sustainability data to help inform their sourcing decisions.
  • Sustainable sourcing training: As part of our Retail Brilliance programme for retail employees, the Sustainable Sourcing Team runs classes and events throughout the year on our sustainable sourcing programme. The aim of this programme is to inspire our teams with the latest sustainable fashion innovations relevant to our own-label clothing as well as to keep them updated on industry developments.
  • Sustainability training: We are also working with the Sustainable Fashion Academy to train over 30 colleagues on how to design and source products more sustainably.
  • Sustainable materials library: We started creating a library in 2010 to help our Buying and Design Teams find the most sustainable materials for their upcoming ranges. The library makes these materials more visible and accessible to our creative staff, inspiring them to use more of them in their collections.
7 Members in the Sustainable Sourcing team. 15% Target to reduce the carbon, waste and water footprint of our own-label products by 2020. 800 Products sold on Eco Edit, our sustainable fashion and beauty platform. 30 Colleagues enrolled on a sustainability course at the Sustainable Fashion Academy.