Materials That Make A Difference
We’re taking responsibility: it’s time for a kindness revolution.
Whether it’s eliminating single-use plastic from our packaging or designing with materials that are better for the planet, we’re in pursuit of making fashion that does good.
Behind the scenes, all our teams work hard to make sure your latest killer swimsuit, or perfect high-waist jeans, are stitched together with more care for the planet. Every thread counts, which is why we’ve put together this guide on some of the fabrics you might see in our sustainable ranges – so you know exactly what we mean when you read the label.
We only create with cotton that has accreditation to ensure full traceability. We'll always label designs that contain a minimum of 50% organic cotton. When you see the label, all the cotton in that product is actually organic.
Responsibly Sourced Cotton
We at River island are committed to using more sustainable materials in all our products and are a proud member of Better Cotton. We’ve been on a journey to convert our cotton to be responsibly sourced, from either Better Cotton, organic or recycled sources. Better Cotton is sourced via a system of mass balance and is not physically traceable to end products. However, farmers benefit from the demand for Better Cotton in the same volume as we do. This year we converted 85% of our sourced cotton to responsibly sourced which is a huge increase from last year.
Our suppliers were told in March last year that any orders containing cotton from September 2023 had to be sourced responsibly. We are committed to sourcing 100% of our cotton as Better Cotton by 2023, and we’re confident we can work with our suppliers to achieve this. We’re proud to say that all the cotton used in our jersey and denim has now been converted to 100% responsibly sourced. Want to know which items are made with responsibly sourced cotton? Simply check for the responsibly sourced cotton label.
The 2022 cost of living crisis impacted material pricing heavily. We are also saw a rise in demand for sustainable materials, resulting in reduced availability and much higher costs. Luckily, we managed to maintain our levels of recycled materials in 2022, but increased our use of sustainable viscose and lyocell. We aimed to have 30% of our products sustainably attributed by the end of 2022, and we’re pleased to say we ended the year at 37%, taking us closer to our goal of 50% of our products attributed by the end of 2023.
We joined Canopy in 2021 in order to make sure all our man-made cellulosic fibre (such as viscose) is no longer sourced from ancient or endangered forests by the end of 2022. Looking solely at the raw materials is not enough to claim that viscose is sustainable, therefore we only allow products to be labelled if they ensure that the chemicals used during the production are recovered and reused, resulting in less emissions. We therefore only recognise LenzingEcovero and Birla Livaecoviscose as sustainable. They also need to be a minimum content of 50% for us to label as sustainable viscose, and all the viscose used must be sustainable.
When Lyocell is made, about 99% of the chemicals used to create the fibre are recovered and recycled. We only use wood sourced from FSC or PEFC certified areas, and source from Lenzing and Birla suppliers, like our viscose. That means we'll be able to keep our sustainable promise in yarn and fabric production. It gets better: this material is fully traceable throughout the supply chain.
Responsibly Sourced Leather
Our responsibly sourced leather is verified by Leather Working Group certification. This helps us understand whether the supplier is working on their chemical and water management and traceability. Some sources are further along on their journey, so we are asking suppliers to declare their supply chain as we work towards tracing our supply chain down to slaughterhouse by 2025. We are aiming for all leather sourced for our products to be from tanneries that have achieved as Gold, Silver or Bronze Leather Working Group accreditation by end 2030.
We work with several recycled fabrics like cotton, polyester, nylon, and plastic. Luckily, they're all growing in availability due to demand, but they can still be difficult to source thanks to cost and technological challenges. We asked that a minimum of 30% recycled content carry a claim for polyester, nylon, plastic and rubber and 20% for cotton. The materials must be accredited to ensure the traceability of our products. Using recycled materials helps us get closer to circularity: we want to continue challenging ourselves to increase usage across our products.