The High Street and sustainability are not always the most obvious pairing. But while searching out the niche sustainable companies is great, it can be time consuming. Fortunately there are companies on the high street working to bring down their carbon footprint, sort out their supply chains, and work towards making every garment ‘green’.
Here are nine stores who aren’t compromising on style for sustainability.
M&S has long been leading the way on sustainability for big corporations. The company began rolling out Plan A as far back as 2007 and was the first retailer to be “Certified to all three Carbon Trust Standards for our achievements in carbon, water and waste reduction”.
M&S sources all its UK and ROI electricity from renewables. It also reached its goal to become carbon neutral back in April 2013, which includes “M&S operated and joint-venture stores, offices, warehouses and delivery fleets around the world”. Meanwhile 100% of their cotton coming from sustainable sources and they’re working with the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) to continue to look for ways to cut chemicals and improve production. They launched schoolwear made from recycled plastic bottles (instead of new polyester made from oil) over a decade ago, and are currently working to make their jeans as sustainable as possible.
Look Out For: wardrobe staples, versatile basics, timeless classics
Zara launched its #JoinLife sustainable clothing line in 2016. The collection boasts organic cotton, recycled wool and Tencel - made from wood fibres from sustainably managed forests. The company promises it uses farming processes using 90% less water than conventional cotton. Zara also offers customers the chance to bring back their old and unwanted clothes to be recycled into new fabric - You can look for your nearest participating store here. Zara stores are designed to save energy and water and they reuse cardboard boxes up to five times before recycling them.
Look for: fashion forward pieces, fun printed tees and smart seasonal updates
H&M is working towards all of its clothing being 100% recycled or sustainable by 2030. While it has a way to go (currently it’s at 57%), the company makes it easy to identify which products are more environmentally sustainable by labelling those garments with a green "Conscious" hangtag. The tag signifies a garment with a bigger share (generally over 50%) of sustainable or recycled materials, which have used less water and energy and fewer chemicals to produce. You’ll find items across all their ranges that fit the bill, and can vote with your feet / credit card for a greener option.
Look for: gorgeous floaty prints, stylish maternity options
Fat Face is one of those companies that always gives off a ‘green’ aura - and its action on the environment doesn’t disappoint.
It launched its 360 sustainability plan back in 2016 to “help us make conscious decisions that have a positive impact on the natural environment, people and local communities where we trade”. It focuses around "three pillars of sustainability": responsible sourcing for sustainable products, protecting the environment, and supporting people and communities.
In addition to a transparent and green-oriented supply chain, Fat Face has been switching to LED lighting in its stores and distribution centre, improving its recycling facilities, and is looking to introduce recycling bins to its stores and recycled fibres to its garments.
Look out for: Fun and funky casuals, holiday items, walking, camping and outdoorwear.
This lovely, seaside-y company was the first fashion company to receive the Soil Association Global Organic Textile standard back in 2005. And it’s still looking at ways to reduce its carbon emissions. Improvements include shops fitted with LED lights, smart meters and light sensors, reducing and recycling waste as much as possible and reducing single use plastics. Seasalt has installed drinking fountains in its newer shops to help customers refill their bottles. Their carrier bags are recyclable and they support the World Land Trust through their gift card holders.
"Green is one of our favourite colours," says White Stuff, "but we don't just wear it, we live and breathe it". The home of whacky window displays, White Stuff endeavours to work in environmentally friendly ways on all fronts. The company dresses out its shops with recycled and reclaimed objects, while its "Green Stuffers Team" looks out for ways to improve sustainability across the supply chain.
Once only available online for UK shoppers, the colourful, flamboyant Swedish label has a store in Monmouth Street, London - hopefully with more to follow in the UK! The antithesis of fast fashion, Gudrun Sjödén focuses instead on timeless and versatile style and has "design with a long lifespan" as its primary ethos. The company has used eco-jersey for a long time now, which is spun and dyed without chemicals. It lights its stores with LED lighting, has used chlorine-free paper for decades, recycles as much as possible and prefers sea freight instead of more carbon intensive forms of transport to ship its products. It also has long-term relationships with its suppliers and adheres to high worker safety and welfare practices.
Look out for: The Green Simplicity range for trademark colourful pieces with high environmental standards, like this joyful spotty dress.
OK, strictly speaking this is an online brand, but worth mentioning as it’s working hard to pull up its eco credentials. Already known for championing body positivity, LGBTQI+ inclusion, equality and other important issues, ASOS has launched Eco Edit - a collection within its website of sustainable brands of fashion and beauty. In addition, ASOS Marketplace is stocking second hand and vintage pieces - including charity items from Oxfam, Barnado’s and Traid. Picked with ASOS’ usual discerning eye, of course.
Look out for: The heart-shaped eco-edit symbol; one-off vintage treasures that will make everyone jealous.
The popular brand has taken a big leap forward for the environment - by launching Nuuly - its new fashion rental service. Urban Outfitters is offering shoppers the chance to rent clothing from its own labels - including sister brands Anthropologie and Free People - as well as vintage and indie pieces. It says this is in answer to the demand from millennial shoppers for more sustainable fashion.
Sadly for shoppers in the UK, the rental service is only available stateside at the moment. But the store is clearly listening to what customers are after so now is the time to let it know that we’d quite like that service over here too please!
Look out for: Future developments in the UK!
We know the fashion industry is problematic when it comes to the environment and human rights. But by voting with our wallets we can signal that green standards genuinely matter to us. And these companies are showing that a greener approach to fashion doesn’t impact how great you can look. Quite the opposite, in fact.