River Island are committed to improving the sustainable credentials of our clothing and accessories; doing our bit to reduce the negative impact the fashion industry has on people and planet. We want all Islanders to enjoy the pure joy of fashion, free from worry or guilt. The journey is long, and we are not perfect, but we are working hard to make positive change. Our goal is to reach at least 50% of our garments made using sustainable materials by 2023.
To get there we are constantly improving our sourcing approach to make sure we select materials with the lightest footprint possible. Our Sustainable Materials Framework outlines the process in which we evaluate and validate the materials we use. Any claims you see on our products meet that framework.
The framework sets out the minimum sustainable material mixes in order for any sustainable claim to be made. For River Island, these minimums usually sit at around 50% composition with some materials up to 100%. In addition, all sustainable claims must be accredited with relevant standards, for example GOTS, BCI or GRS, to name a few. All fabrics must be accompanied by scope and transactional certification in order to validate them.
Find out more about our most commonly used sustainable materials:
Traditional cotton farming typically uses genetically modified seed and a large amount of water and chemical pesticides & fertilizers. Organic cotton is ecologically grown without the uses of GMO seeds, chemical pesticides or fertilisers. It uses 71% less water that conventional cotton. All River Island Organic Cotton materials is Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) or Organic Claims Standard (OCS) accredited.
Our responsibly sourced cotton is made using cotton from the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), of which River Island is a member. The Better Cotton Initiative exists to make global cotton production better for the people who produce it, better for the environment it grows in, and better for the sector’s future. BCI train farmers to use water efficiently, care for soil health, reduce the use of the most harmful chemicals and respect workers’ rights. Better Cotton is not physically traceable to end products. However, BCI Farmers benefit from the demand for Better Cotton in equivalent volumes to those we ‘source.’
Our recycled materials, most commonly cotton, polyester & nylon, can be made from either pre- or post-consumer waste, and help to divert waste away from landfill; for man-made fibres this means reducing carbon emissions by 54%. Our River Island recycled materials are all Global Recycled Standard (GRS) or Recycled Claims Standard (RCS) accredited.
All our sustainable viscose is made from wood sourced from controlled areas under the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) or Program for Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) in Europe, much of which is fully traceable. Nearly all the chemicals used during production are recovered and reused, causing 50% less emissions and taking up half as much energy and water. We source sustainable viscose only from Lenzing and Birla suppliers to maintain sustainable assurance.
Lyocell is made from fast-growing Eucalyptus trees in a closed loop system where about 99% of the chemicals used to create the fibre are recovered and recycled during the manufacturing process. Waste products in the air and water from the manufacturing process are minimal and considered harmless. We use only wood sourced from FSC or PEFC certified areas and source only from Lenzing and Birla suppliers in order to maintain sustainable assurance in yarn and/or fabric production.
Modal is very similar to Viscose however it has a higher chemical footprint which is why we only source from Lenzing or Birla where 95% of the chemicals used in the fibre production are captured and recycled. Modal originates from Beech wood (FSC or PEFC Certified) that is pulped and then extruded via a chemical process similar to Viscose and turned into a fibre. The chemical process for modal has a higher chemical footprint than viscose, but we only source Modal from Lenzing or Birla where 95% of the chemicals used in the fibre production are captured and recycled.’
Our Responsibly Sourced Linen is certified European Flax which uses rainwater with no need for additional irrigation, no GMOs, no waste and no chemical pesticides or fertilizers. The retting process (separating the fibres from the stalks) is also done infields rather than waterways. It is compliant with the International Labour Organisation and has full traceability.
Our Responsibly Sourced Wool is made using Responsible Wool Standard (RWS) wool, designed to recognize the best practices of farmers, ensuring that wool comes from farms with a progressive approach to managing their land, and from sheep that have been treated responsibly. Accreditation must be verified through each step of the supply chain.
Our Responsibly Sourced Leather is made using Gold certified leather by the Leather Working Group (LWG). Since 2005, LWG has identified environmental best practices in the industry and provided guidelines for continual improvement such as improving chemical use, reducing water waste and recycling. River Island are not yet a member of the Leather Working Group but are working towards membership; once we have this we will be able to message which of our items are LWG Gold Certified.
As part of our Sustainable Materials Framework, River Island is committed to Animal Welfare. River Island supports the Five Freedoms for Animal Welfare as defined by the UK Farm Animal Welfare Council which affirms every living being's right to humane treatment. We strive to ensure that animal products are obtained from fair and ethical sources and that animals from these sources are treated humanely at all times.
All our suppliers must be socially responsible when sourcing animal products, and are responsible for demonstrating due diligence in ensuring this policy is observed. All leather, skins and feather must only be sourced as a by-product of the meat industry and where possible, source materials with accreditation aligned to our sustainable materials framework such as Responsibly Sourced Wool (RSW), Responsibly Sourced Down (RSD) and Leather Working Group (LWG) sourced leather. We do not use fur, mohair or angora.
We want to reduce the environmental impact of our clothes and that doesn’t just stop once you have made your purchase. We need to work together to carry that work on at home, as washing our clothes has a significant environmental impact. The average household does almost 400 loads of laundry every year, consuming about 60,000 litres of water. It also takes a lot energy to heat the washing water and run the drying cycle. So here are some tips for reducing this impact.