The UK's most ethical fashion brands have been revealed but most high street shops need to improve

13th Jun 18 | Beauty

A major sustainability survey shows a big gap between the best and worst retailers, Katie Wright reports.

Two Friends shopping in cute boutique clothing store

The results of a six-month project assessing the sustainability and ethics of 500 clothing companies are released today with sportswear brands ruling at the top of the table.

Adidas and Reebok (which is owned by Adidas) took the first and second places in the survey by ethical fashion organisation Good On You.

High street giant Marks and Spencer came third with luxury fashion label Stella McCartney and denim brand G-Star Raw completing the top five.

To determine the results, researchers looked at data from more than 50 standards and certifications as well as information from the companies’ own websites to assess their supply chains in terms of impact on the environment, labour conditions and animal rights.

The firms were then given a score out of five and ranked from best to worst: ‘Great’, ‘Good’, ‘It’s a Start’, ‘Not Good Enough’ and ‘We Avoid’. All of the top five brands were rated ‘Good’.

“I think many people will be surprised to hear a sports brands like Adidas can achieve a ‘Good’ rating,” says Good On You Co-Founder Sandra Capponi. “In the 1990’s and 2000’s sportswear companies were notorious for labour rights abuses, but Adidas and Reebok have made a lot of progress to become transparency and sustainability leaders.”

According to the survey, all the big ‘fast fashion’ brands are making efforts to reduce their environmental impact and protect workers, in many cases more than luxury brands, although Stella McCartney is a notable exception.

“The fast fashion model is unsustainable at its core,” Capponi says. “Mass-producing mountains of cheap, throwaway clothing will never be truly ethical.

“Sadly, the majority of the high street brands we looked at had no information about their supply chains – they get a poor rating because we believe consumers have a right to know this information.”

As a result, major retailers like H&M, Primark, Topshop and Zara all scored middling ‘It’s A Start’ ratings.

“Shoppers want to feel good about their purchases,” Capponi continues. “They want to know that the shirt they bought didn’t do harm to the people that made it or their environment. But with so many different standards like fairtrade, organic or vegan, it hasn’t always been easy to compare brands.

“There’s also a lot of greenwashing to cut through – the brands that say nice things, but when you look under the hood there’s little substance to their claims.”

Want to find out how your favourite shops fared in the survey? All of the main UK high street clothing retailers’ rankings are now available on the free Good On You app.

© Press Association 2018