5 ethical high street fashion brands - so you can shop with a clear conscience

Fashion retailer Boohoo has come under fire after allegations of modern slavery, low pay and poor working conditions in factories. (Photo: Shutterstock)
Fashion retailer Boohoo has come under fire after allegations of modern slavery, low pay and poor working conditions in factories. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Allegations of slavery, low pay and worker mistreatment has tarnished the reputation of clothing retailer Boohoo.

Owner of brands like Nasty Gal and Pretty Little Thing, Boohoo has found itself embroiled in controversy after a Sunday Times report alleged that it was paying workers as little as £3.50, and forcing them to work in unsafe conditions.

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It’s left many looking to make more ethical choices when it comes to fashion, searching for retailers with a more sustainable and humane supply chain.

These are some of the high street brands that have made commitments to safe working conditions and sustainability when it comes to making clothes. 

Marks and Spencer 

Marks and Spencers’ Modern Slavery Statement has been ranked as a leader in the FTSE100, with all factories visited and inspected regularly to ensure workers’ human rights are upheld.

The brand is also independently certified by SEDEX Members Ethical Trade Audit who look at universal human rights in global supply chains and business practices. 

Marks and Spencer also have a good environmental record, with its Plan A scheme covering 180 specific commitments to tackling social and environmental issues.

John Lewis 

Employees who work in John Lewis stores have high employee satisfaction, owing to employee-friendly policies such as all workers having a share in the company.

The company is also part of the Ethical Trading Initiative, which is an alliance of trade union, business and voluntary organisations working to improve the lives of poor and vulnerable people working in factories and farms worldwide.

H&M

H&M has made a lot of noise in the past few years regarding the production of sustainable and ethically-produced products, and is generally committed to improving standards.

While they have a good record and have made good steps towards sustainability and better labour conditions, H&M is still reported to have some problems with environmental impact and working conditions.

Monki 

Owned by H&M, Monki has a fairly good record on living wage, transparency and worker empowerment.

For instance, it traces all or almost all of its supply chain to ensure that no subcontracting - where standards might slip - takes place in the production of its clothes.

While it has made environmental commitments - including using renewable energy in part of its supply chain - it reportedly uses non-environmentally friendly materials for some of its products. 

The White Company 

The White Company also has a fairly good reputation when it comes to treatment of workers. It is a member of the Ethical Trading Initiative and monitors conditions in factories. 

However, its record on good environmental practices is reportedly less consistent, with few specific commitments made to reducing its environmental impact. 

How do I know if a brand is ethical or not? 

Generally, you should pause for thought if the clothes you’re buying are incredibly cheap - often this means somebody was exploited in order to make them, and/or that they were made unsustainably. 

To be sure, the best thing to do is research a brand to find out more about their working and environmental practices before you buy. 

Independent judgements - rather than company statements - are usually the most reliable sources of information.

Good on you is just one example of an online directory where you can check out brands’ policies on the environment and working conditions in factories. Here, you can also search for brands with good ethical practices. 

You should check whether the information you’re reading is up-to-date, and cross-reference with other sources to make sure it’s accurate.