Asos is seeking a commitment from attendees to increase transparency and build capability to tackle modern slavery

Asos is seeking a commitment from attendees to increase transparency and build capability to tackle modern slavery

UK online fashion retailer Asos has renewed a call for its third-party brands to actively increase transparency and build capability to tackle modern slavery in their global supply chains.

The company, which last week posted a 13% increase in total group revenue for the first half of the year, returned to London's House of Lords today (26 March) to co-host a Modern Slavery forum with Baroness Lola Young, co-chair All Party Parliamentary Group on Ethics and Sustainability in Fashion.

The move comes 12 months after the Group's inaugural session, which addressed shared risks in the apparel sector. Today's event will review the progress that has been made over the last 12 months and challenge attendees to sign a pledge to implement meaningful practices to tackle modern slavery.

Those attending and speaking include executives from Asos third-party brands such as Boohoo, Dr Martens, Fred Perry, Missguided and River Island, as well as retailer M&S.

"With a growing legislative focus on modern slavery, there's never been a better time to act together to drive systemic change in the industry," says Asos CEO Nick Beighton. "That's why we're calling on those present to join us in signing our pledge to tackle modern slavery and move beyond commitment to more concrete action and collaboration."

The five-point Asos pledge asks brands to commit to:

  • Mapping and assessing modern slavery risks;
  • Working collaboratively with others to develop tools and resources to raise awareness of risks;
  • Training relevant employees about modern slavery risks within their businesses and supply chains;
  • Publishing and continuously building on their Modern Slavery statements;
  • Participating in an annual session to demonstrate progress made.

Third party brands that have already signed the pledge include Dr Martens, Missguided, New Look and River Island.

"We are serious about tackling modern slavery so the pledge we have signed continues the work that we have already started with Asos in this area," explains Ben Lewis, CEO of River Island. "We encourage other brands to join us in eradicating human rights abuses in our supply chains."

Baroness Young adds: "I am pleased to see several major high street brands sign a pledge committing to take active steps to eradicate modern slavery in their supply chains. By doing this, they show that there is space for pre-competitive collaboration when it comes to ensuring human rights due diligence. I very much hope that other brands will follow suit."

The House of Lords meeting also comes on the same day Asos releases its annual Modern Slavery Statement in line with UK legislation – forming a key component of Asos' Ethical Trade Strategy, which has been set up to help the brand tackle human rights impacts in its global supply chain and empower workers to realise and understand their fundamental rights. A key component of the strategy is an ambition to drive a systemic shift in the way Asos Design and Asos third-party brands approach ethical trade and sustainability.

In the last 12 months, Asos has, among other initiatives, co-delivered Modern Slavery workshops for third-party brands in collaboration with Anti-Slavery International and launched an online training resource for third-party brands, produced in conjunction with the London College of Fashion, to help them meet modern slavery legislation requirements.

Founded in 2000, today Asos has more than 87,000 Asos and branded products on site, with 5,000 new items added each week.

However, the company has also been questioned by British MPs as part of an investigation into the environmental sustainability of the UK clothing industry. The series of hearings by the Environmental Audit Committee at the end of last year was largely critical of the fast-fashion model.