Asos will aim for zero net carbon emissions by 2030 and aim to match the general population in terms of gender and ethnicity diversity among its executives, as the fast fashion company responds to growing buyers’ demand for brands ethical.
Fast-fashion retailers have faced persistent criticism from campaigners regarding the environmental footprint of cheap clothing seen as disposable by many customers. Fashion is estimated to account for around 10% of greenhouse gas emissions from human activity.
The wider sector has also faced social issues such as representation among bosses and alleged minimum wage violations against some of the workers who make clothing in the industry.
Asos, which sells only online, said it will try to meet growing customer demands for greater choice in a responsible manner with targets for emissions reductions, recycling and worker representation.
Nick Beighton, CEO of Asos, said the company has set itself ambitious ambitions. Asos wanted to act in a sustainable and responsible manner even as it seeks to expand rapidly across the world, he said.
Beighton said the sustainability goals would lead to incremental cost increases, but an increase in scale predicted this as more people would be drawn to the brand.
The retailer has said it will produce zero net carbon in its own operations by 2025, and it hopes to align its wider supply chain with the standard by 2030. Asos will then offset any remaining emissions from the products and services he buys.
It also said it would improve the circularity of its products, including using more sustainable or recycled materials in its own-label products and packaging, designing easily recyclable clothing and making it easier for customers to recycle clothing.
Primark, another fast fashion leader, also said this week that it will commit to making all of its clothing recyclable by design by 2027. The retailer will also halve its carbon footprint by 2030, a- he declared.
Increased circularity would help to further reduce the impact of fashion on the planet. A study by the Royal Society for Arts, Manufactures and Commerce found that almost half of the products added to Asos, Boohoo, Missguided and PrettyLittleThing in a fortnight were made entirely from new plastics such as polyester, acrylic and nylon. The demand for virgin plastic helps support the fossil fuel industry and ends up adding to waste.
Beighton acknowledged that Asoss’s move was in part aimed at attracting more environmentally conscious consumers, and also increasing sales from existing customers.
Customers will decide how much they want to put in their baskets, he said. However, he added that very low prices for some clothes could become inaccessible.
Regarding diversity goals, Asos said it would ensure that 50% of managers at all levels are women and 15% ethnic minorities by 2030, up from 42% and 7%. This would largely correspond to the British population, in which 50.6% were female in 2019, and 14% ethnic minorities in 2018, according to thinktank Diversity UK.
The retailer will also map its supply chains for own-label clothing, from the finished product to the raw material level by 2030, he said. Asos was among retailers that pulled clothing sales from Boohoo last year, after its fast fashion brand faced allegations of minimum wage violations hidden at factories in its supply chain in Leicester.
The responsibility for a sustainable future lies with all of us and companies must lead the way, Beighton said.
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