Asos axes UK suppliers over ethics worries

Linda J. Dodson

Only one is now the highest “red critical” level, a Vietnam operation, which faces bribery allegations and which Asos plans to stop using.

Two British factories are deemed as high risk, both of which are expected to receive a follow-up audit in August, and both of which have had visits or calls in the last week to work through unresolved issues. The remaining are either largely compliant or will soon be compliant with the retailers’ standards.

Only 8.5pc of the total sites were deemed “largely compliant” with regulations that met the company’s ethical standard in 2018. 

The 2018 report also shows that at the time, the UK had the highest number of breaches in a category called “employment is freely chosen”, with 10 cases reported.

This includes issues such as whether workers’ passports were confiscated, if their movements were restricted and if they were forced to do overtime against their will.

The scrutiny comes after rivals Boohoo and Quiz were alleged to use suppliers with poor working conditions. 

Sources close to the company say it carries out audits for all its main factories at least once a year and it has since dumped suppliers that fall short of its standards. It had also started inspecting secondary suppliers from last year.

The ethical breaches uncovered by Asos, which seeks to hold itself to high standards on the issue, will raise questions about how widespread malpractice is in the fashion industry and whether rivals conduct similar wide-ranging audits to spot failings. 

An Asos spokesman said: “At the heart of our industry-leading ethical trade policy is a commitment to rigorously and regularly audit our supply chain to ensure workers’ rights are protected and respected. 

“This internal report, which is more than two years out of date, shows how seriously we take this process, and since it was created we have made – and continue to make – significant improvements across our entire global supply base.”

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