This was a really hard post for me to begin as I’m such a huge fan of Topshop and always have been – I think I’ve put it off for so long as I’m unsure whether I can continue shopping with them, but we must continue with this investigation (although the latest Sir Phillip Green scandal should see me running to the hills – why should I continue to line the pockets of such a despicable man?!).
Anyway, I’ll start off by saying that Topshop haven’t had any bad press in the last couple of years, but were one of the companies using the factory in Bangladesh that collapsed in 2013 and had to have some pressure to sign an Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) after the disaster. Doesn’t sound great, but did it change the way they do things?
I had a quick mooch on the website to see what information was available and saw there was a Topshop Supports section which gives some background into the charities and initiatives they support – the one that stuck out to me was the charity Key To Freedom;
Key to Freedom is part of the Women’s Interlink Foundation in India, which provides refuge for women whose lives have been affected by human trafficking and domestic violence. Together, Topshop and Key to Freedom have launched a series of collections, creating bags, scarves and kimonos that demonstrate the skills that the women have developed. All proceeds go directly to the charity.
I love the sound of this charity and think it’s a great demonstration of using fashion as a way of improving the lives of those that haven’t been fortunate enough to have a decent life. Kudos Topshop!
As Topshop is part of the Arcadia group (including Miss Selfridge, Dorothy Perkins, Evans, Wallis and Outfit) I won’t be writing posts about each individual store as their policies on the topics we’re covering go across all of the brands. Each brand is part of the Fashion Footprint which is the initiative that Arcadia apply to all of their brands and covers everything we’re reviewing in this series.
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’ve continued to invest in our online ethical audit platform Valid8. This year we further streamlined processes, automating previously manual elements. Under strict criteria, the system will auto-grade factories based on information entered on our system, with verification from auditors and our technologists.
Overall this year we’ve reviewed 1,371 ethical audits across all of our brands. 81.8% of our factories were graded green (low risk), 17.7% were graded orange (high risk) and 0.5% were graded 0.5% (critical risk). We continue to work towards 100% of our factories operating with a green rating.
This is the first kind of factory audit I’ve come across like this and there’s a more thorough code of conduct which goes into a lot more detail than I’ve quoted above. All factories in their supply chain are audited regularly and I commend the fact that they’ve been honest with providing the outcome of their audit.
In addition to their audits, there are more global initiatives that they’re a part of including the Better Cotton Initiative (by 2020 they’re aiming to source 20% of their cotton as Better Cotton), Worldwide Chemical Compliance and the non-profit organisation Canopy.
I’m going ahead and giving Arcadia a thumbs up on this – they’ve got a whole host of information available on pretty much everything in connection with this point.
How the factories that make the garments treat their workers
Within the Fashion Footprint site, there a few other sections covering their Joint Turkey Programme (who’s mission is to develop and implement a strategic and holistic programme to improve factory productivity, workers’ conditions, working hours, earnings and worker management dialogue), strategic labour priorities (focusing on four main areas; living wage, freedom of association, purchasing practices and vulnerable workers) and country risk assessments (monitoring and responding to issues in all of their sourcing countries). I had a browse through their code of conduct pages on employment standards and found an extremely hefty document covering absolutely everything, with a credit to adidas who created an amazing framework and allowed Arcadia to make use of it for their own companies.
I can’t speak to whether they practice what they preach as after some more digging online, I found a story written in the Sun in 2016 about a Sri Lanken factory worker that was being paid 44p an hour to make Ivy Park clothing (the brand stocked within Topshop as a collaboration between them and Beyonce) – I can’t speak for its legitimacy as Philip Green was entwined in the BHS scandal at the time, but I’m going to give this point a half thumbs up.
How animals are treated in the production of their clothing
Leathers, skins and feathers must only be obtained as a by-product and not be the sole purpose of the slaughter of an animal.
- No products in full or part are to be sourced from endangered species listed by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) or International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
- Angora, down, mohair, real fur or pelts are not to be used on any products supplied to Arcadia Group.
- Skins should not be obtained while an animal is alive.
- Feathers should not be plucked from live animals.
- Arcadia Group branded cosmetics, and their ingredients, must not be tested on animals.
- Karakul must not be used (also known as broadtail and astrakhan), or any skin products from aborted animals in goods supplied to us.
- Wool cannot be sourced from producers that use mulesing as part of their animal husbandry strategies.
Succinct and to the point, these are the key points on the Fashion Footprint site under animal welfare. It’s great to know that they’re one of the companies to say no to fur and have a policy in place that’s readily available. I’ll give this point a thumbs up!
How they dispose of their waste
Our brands have supported projects that explore the sustainability of fabrics, including recycled wool, up-cycling surplus and off-cut materials. We are currently exploring new projects that focus on sustainable materials.
I LOVE this and especially so as I’m attempting (note I say attempting as I’ve not been great at keeping up with making new things!) to do the same thing with my old clothes – Arcadia get a huge thumbs up on this point as it’s something that not any other companies I’ve researched so far have been supporting.
All in all, with a very respectable 3.5 out of 4, Topshop have done pretty well and I’m glad as I didn’t want to feel like a shitty person for shopping with them for all of these years!
Were you surprised with the outcome of today’s post and are you as much of a Topshop clone as I am? Let me know!