Are River Island Ethical?

I’ll be honest, I can’t believe I didn’t start with River Island or give them a second thought for this series as I’ve shopped with them for years and always head in there when I’m out shopping (especially during the sales – you can get some quality clothes for bargain prices there). But today we’ll be looking into River Island and whether they’re an ethical high street company. If you’re new to this series, you can check out my introductory post here and previous investigations I’ve done into Primark, New Look, H&M, Topshop and Next.

As per previous posts, I’ll be considering the four points outlined in the introductory post and will rate them against that. I also want to say thank you to everyone for your feedback on these posts, they’ve been fun to investigate and write, so it means a lot 😘

First off, I did a quick Google search (as always) to see whether I could find anything lurking in the depths of the internet about our beloved River Island, to unfortunately find that they were one of the companies exposed in a Dispatches documentary on Channel 4 last year along with New Look and Boohoo for using a factory in the UK that was paying workers less than the minimum wage – not great.

How they treat the environment when sourcing their raw materials e.g. cotton, silk.  And how the factories that make the materials treat the environment around them

We are investigating UK Fast Forward audit methodology for other high-risk areas. We are collaborating with suppliers in Southern China to raise awareness and mitigate modern slavery and trafficking risk due to the growing trend for migrant Burmese labour provided by agents.

We will also continue to add Tier 1 processors (printers and laundries) to our audit and risk assessment process. We will also build reporting and visibility of our key fabric mills (prioritised according to River Island business level and leverage) as a first step to enabling “Tier 2” visibility and risk assessment at a future stage.

There wasn’t too much available on their site when it came to the environment and sourcing their materials, however I did find the above statement which in context was more to do with the treatment of workers and the environment they work in. I found this point quite difficult as there wasn’t any background to their stance on the environment in this way, however they did confirm that their stance on the environment was on their agenda, so it’s a thumbs up from me!

How the factories that make the garments treat their workers

We have adopted the ETI Base Code as the minimum standards that should apply to workers in our supply chain as set out below. If local law sets higher standards than the base code then these legislative requirements should be met:

  • Employment is freely chosen (not forced or enslaved)


  • Freedom of association (freedom of speech; the right of workers to negotiate with employers)


  • Working conditions are safe and hygienic


  • Child labour shall not be used


  • Living wages are paid


  • Working hours are not excessive


  • No discrimination is practised


  • Regular employment is provided


  • No harsh or inhumane treatment is allowed


To the point, there is no arguing the above points and their response to the Dispatches documentary was something to be expected of a company of their standing. They confirmed the factory in question was taken off of their supplier list in 2016 due to them subcontracting work without their knowledge.  I think their clear message and response means they deserve a thumbs up.

How animals are treated in the production of their clothing

I unfortunately couldn’t find anything on their site covering an animal welfare policy which wasn’t too much of a surprise after finding the same in a couple of other investigations, but a simple statement would have sufficed! Based on this, it’s a thumbs down for this one.

How they dispose of their waste

In all River Island stores, offices and warehouses we are committed to operating in a way that is mindful of the demand on our planet’s limited resources. We have incorporated the use of renewable energy sources into our operations and reduced the levels of product packaging. River Island also recycles and uses biodegradable materials whenever possible.

This is a bit of a naff policy and doesn’t cover what they do with their old stock, but it’s something! They’re no where near Primark, but I’ll give them a reluctant thumbs up.

All of the above quotes have been taken from the River Island website which you can find here.

Overall, River Island have scored a 3.5 out of 4 – not too bad and I’m not going to feel too bad about continuing to shop with them! However, I will say that they don’t have as much information available on their website as a lot of the other companies I’ve looked into.

What do you think of River Island and have you got anyone else you’d like me to cover in this series?


  1. February 3, 2019 / 9:46 pm

    It’s crap that they don’t have anything about animal welfare as I really do love shopping in River Island! Also as such a big company and with the recent vegan movement, you’d think they’d have at least some sort of information available? I imagine if this was a more widely known thing, a lot of people would be boycotting them! It’s good to hear they’re ethical in other places, though! I’m excited to see what shop you do next 🙂
    Alice Xx

    • February 4, 2019 / 12:27 pm

      I know right? However, after I published this I got a DM from them on Twitter saying “Watch this space” so it sounds like it might be in the pipeline! Xxx

  2. February 11, 2019 / 2:25 pm

    I honestly just never think to shop in River Island! I don’t know why but I just never go in there, I’ve wondered around before but it doesn’t really seem to be to my taste. It’s a shame that in terms of addressing certain issues, it’s almost like they’re totally avoiding it which I think is worse. I never see this being talked about and I think a lot less people would shop there if they knew they weren’t addressing things like animal welfare, it’s great that you’re doing these posts to make the issue more important. It’s good that they’re at least on the ball with other things and making a change in some ways, it’s definitely better than nothing x

    Alice //

    • February 11, 2019 / 6:14 pm

      No way! I’ve always shopped there! And I agree, they actually DM’d me on Twitter after I published this to say “watch this space” so I wonder what’s coming! ❤️❤️

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