ASOS is clear in positioning themselves as a company looking to “better themselves.” But their sustainable goals are broad and unspecific, and they promote ideals that counter true sustainability, like rapid company expansion. However, a helpful component of their website is the inclusion of a list of definitions for sustainability buzzwords, like “traceability” and “cellulosic.” The inclusion of this list is important in terms of their ability to educate their target audience, most likely the consumer. But it also positions them on high moral ground, indicating a breadth of knowledge on the topic of sustainability, when in reality, their practices fall short. Ultimately, ASOS must completely restructure their position in sustainability, as they are currently greenwashing their consumer base. Their practices do not meet standards of sustainability, nor do they have a clear indication of change in the near future. I would advise the consumer to stay away at all costs!
The ASOS design cropped drawstring pants are made of 95% viscose, and 5% elastane. The viscose is a patented material called LENZING™ ECOVERO™, and it is advertised as coming from renewable sources. Such sources are not displayed on the main website, requiring a trip to the EcoVero website in order to attain more information on the material. The EcoVero material comes from wood and pulp fibers, and their methods of production are certified by the EU Ecolabel. That said, the company displays little to no information about the actual production of the fabric, and rather, signals good virtue through a “feel good” mini video about their positive environmental impact. Though the fabric requires 50% less water and generates less emissions than generic viscose, it is hard to be certain if these statistics are accurate when there is no explanation of their meaning, or how they were determined. It is also important to note that this particular product is made of 5% elastane, also known as spandex. This material is highly detrimental to the environment as it requires mass amounts of energy to produce, and does not degrade upon being discarded. It is incredibly important to be wary of the material used in these pants, as their seemingly “sustainable” make-up cannot be corroborated.
ASOS, on their “corporate responsibility” website, outlines the ways in which they are a “sustainable” fashion company. This includes a vague outline of their global supply chain, highlighting the number of people they employ in about twenty countries around the world. Most countries employ tens of thousands of people, creating an expansive network under the ASOS umbrella. This indicates ASOS’ broad presence in fashion production, distribution, and consumption, and they express pride in their global approach. However, ASOS’ claim of fair labor practices are not supported, as they do not detail factory standards, health benefits, or other vital factors that would indicate ethical production. Further still, the list of factories is in the thousands, and it is seemingly impossible for the company to know the ins and outs of each and every one, certifying their alleged ethicality. This is especially harmful in considering the high number of people employed in each country, figures they claim will just continue to grow. If factory conditions are not worth being shown in their display of responsibility, we can only imagine their horrific reality. Additionally, it should be noted that global production is harmful as transportation of goods contributes heavily to emissions. As a result, ASOS cannot consider their production to be “sustainable,” as no care is given to those who are responsible for the creation of their products.
The ASOS design is promoted frequently on their website, in addition to carrying hundreds of other brands. Under the items that are designed by ASOS, almost 20,000 styles are shown. The ASOS “Responsible Edit” is included as a category on the top bar of the website. They advertise this category as “your go-to for all the latest trends, no matter who you are, where you’re from and what you’re up to.” Their universal approach to advertising contributes to the promotion of mass consumption, as they look to “trends” as a selling point for their products. Inherently, trends are the antithesis of sustainability, as it requires rapid production and distribution, often at the expense of environmentally-friendly alternatives.
On the ASOS donor website, CEO Nick Beighton writes, “By working together, we believe we can deliver a systemic shift in the way our industry addresses key ethical trade and sustainability challenges and proactively design a future we all believe in.” His words seem to signify moral well-doing, but in an investigation of their donors, it is clear that the company is willing to compromise their “environmental responsibility” for the sake of their wealthy investors. On the main page of the donor website, ASOS advertises specific figures in order to entice their investors. They include the fact that there were 2.7 billion visits to their online store in just 2020 alone, and that they made over 3 billion dollars in revenue – which they display as “$3,171.0 million” on their site. Both of these figures are significant in determining the marketing strategy of ASOS, and in understanding what they are motivated by. By displaying such a high volume consumer base, one which they claim will “continue to grow,” ASOS is contributing to mass consumption. Their brand’s business model is centered around the elimination of other, smaller markets, creating a “one-stop-shop” with rapid turnaround in production.