Online fashion retailer ASOS supply chain transparency initiative involves asking its brand partners to strengthen their commitment to sustainability and responsible action by pledging to make new ethical manufacturing requirements. Brands with a UK manufacturing presence will be required to make the pledges as a condition to their products being sold on the ASOS website.
Third-party brands account for around 60% of the lines listed on ASOS’s website at any one time. ASOS aims to ensure that they do not list brands which implement lower standards than it requires for its own-brand suppliers
ASOS Supply Chain Transparency- The Boohoo Effect
The changes come after ASOS dropped fast-fashion giant Boohoo over allegations of human rights abuses. The retailer stopped listing Booho’s products after an undercover investigation concluded that workers at one of the company’s UK-based supplier factories were receiving as little as £3.50 per hour.
The Sunday Times reporter claimed that Boohoo’s factory was also ignoring measures designed to stop the spread of Covid-19. As a result of the investigation, ASOS decided to remove all Boohoo products from its website. On the 7th of August, the eCommerce retailer asked all other third-party brands listed on its site to make four new pledges by the end of 2020, covering worker rights and transparency.
What are the four ethical manufacturing pledges?
- Brands will be asked to sign a ‘Transparency Pledge’, requiring a business to provide transparency into their manufacturing supply chain, joining other fashion companies including H&M, Inditex and Next. The pledge also requires these brands to comply with country and region-specific laws on modern slavery. For example, the UK’s Modern Slavery Act which helps them to lobby for more robust legislation collaboratively.
- ASOS will ask suppliers to build on the above pledge by mapping their UK based supply chains, ensuring they have visibility across all UK-based facilities.
- Brands will also need to provide evidence of visibility to ASOS, as well as identify risks and provide strategies to mitigate this risk. If necessary, they will also need to share this information with ASOS so it can support the brand partner in addressing these issues.
- The final pledge requires brands to join Fast Forward, the UK-focussed labour standards auditing methodology. In 2014 ASOS co-founded this with other retailers to tackle issues facing UK garment manufacturing specifically.
Is this move reactionary?
It must be noted that ASOS is not the only major fashion retailer to change its approach to supply chain sustainability in the wake of the Boohoo scandal. Next and Zalando dropped Boohoo’s products, including sister brands that Boohoo own such as Nasty Gal and Pretty Little Thing, within weeks of the accusation.
The Boohoo scandal has reignited the debate on the relationship between how end-user businesses partner with suppliers which are lagging behind on ethical or environmental issues. Some have argued that cutting ties is simply a reactionary way of preserving the end-user brand’s reputation, rather than improving supply chain practices and conditions. If a retailer continues to work with a disgraced brand or supplier, it shows a willingness to accept low standards.
“We believe the four commitments we have set out this week are critical enablers to improving sourcing standards across the UK. We hope that our brand partners will join us in striving to reach this goal, with the continued support of Asos, Fast Forward, and other leading lights in UK manufacturing.”Nick Beighton, Chief Executive, ASOS
Read more on the ASOS Sustainability Initiatives at https://www.asosplc.com/corporate-responsibility
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