Asos announce “ambitious” sustainability plan

Online retailer Asos has become the latest retailer to sign up to the Ellen McArthur Foundation’s New Plastics Economy Global Commitment, which will mean big changes for their plastic usage policy.

The commitment is a global initiative encouraging more than 400 companies and government bodies to enter a circular economy for plastics, meaning that the plastics never become waste.

Asos is the main online retailer to sign the pledge, but have also made their own separate pledges, all related to plastic packaging. These include getting rid of unnecessary plastic in their packaging by 2025, with 50% of their own-brand packaging to be gone by 2025. On top of this, Asos plan to start avoiding single-use plastics, pushing instead for reusable models where relevant by 2025, starting with a reusable packaging trial run in 2020.

Sander Defruyt, lead of the New Plastics Economy initiative at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, said: “The New Plastics Economy Global Commitment unites businesses, governments and others behind a clear vision of a circular economy for plastic. We are pleased Asos is joining us, by setting concrete 2025 targets.”

“Our vision is for a world where plastic never becomes waste or pollution. It will be a challenging journey, but by coming together we can eliminate the plastics we don’t need and innovate, so the plastics we do need can be safely and easily circulated – keeping them in the economy and out of the environment.”

Currently, the packaging is recyclable in principle, it doesn’t fully account for local recycling infrastructure restrictions. This is something the company will be changing, to make sure all their packaging is 100% recyclable or compostable. They are currently encouraging customers to recycle, having created a closed-loop system where packaging from UK customers is recycled by the packaging manufacturer Asos use, meaning that a percentage of Asos packaging is just old packaging that has been returned. Finally, they are pledging to have their packaging made from 100% recycled content by 2025.

Simon Platts, responsible sourcing director at Asos, said: “We’ve been working hard to reduce our use of plastic across Asos, including investing in developing our Asos mailing bags, which will contain 65 percent recycled material in the new year and are already 100 percent recyclable.

“However, there’s always more we can do, which is why we’ve become a signatory of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastic Economy Global Commitment. This formalises our commitment to reducing our use of plastic, through measures such as increasing the amount of used Asos bags we recycle into new packaging and introducing a reusable packaging trial in the early months of 2020.”

This follows a common trend of retailers announcing sustainability plans in 2019, as environmental issues became more mainstream. Last month Prada announced a new sustainability pledge that many considered ambitious.

H&M launches new rental service for Cos in China

H&M clothes

Cos, owned by H&M, announced they will be introducing a new rental system in the Chinese market. This news comes just weeks after H&M launched a similar service in Sweden.

Cos is pairing with YCloset, which is China’s largest subscription-based rental platform, with 15 million users signed up currently. With YCloset users pay a monthly rate, similar to companies like Netflix or Spotify, which gives shoppers the opportunity to buy items at a discounted rate after renting them. The partnership will begin on a three-month trial basis, allowing Cos to test the success of the venture, before entering into anything long-term. During this time, Cos have said they will explore customer demand for a clothing rental service and assess how scalable this model would be.

“Subscription rental has been on our radar for some time and we feel this is a very relevant model for us to explore,” Cos managing director Marie Honda said.

“It is important for us to try new approaches – testing and collaborating to achieve the best outcome for our customer and community – as well as the future of our business.”

Another one of H&M’s recent sustainability efforts launched in October when they announced a similar clothing hire service, allowing customers to rent selected party dresses and skirts from their sustainability range. The ‘Conscious Exclusive’ collection is a range of premium clothing made from sustainable sources that H&M has released annually for the past 10 years. Items from this collection will be available to rent from the Stockholm flagship H&M store.

Huge growth in the second-hand market

secondhand shop

The second-hand market hit $28.67 billion in value this year, with expected growth of almost double that in just 5 years.

Jewellery saw rapid growth in the second-hand goods market, up 9% on last year. Other products include shoes, leather goods, and beauty increased in popularity too.

“We see the second-hand market as a potential avenue for luxury brands to reach a new audience and enlarge their customer base,” said Federica Levato, a co-author of the study in question, which was published by the management consultancy firm Bain & Co. “For many customers, this may be their first luxury purchase, but luxury brands shouldn’t see this as a threat and should manage it strategically to grasp the full potential of this opportunity.”

In terms of overall luxury products, Bain expects the luxury customer base to expand to 450 million people by 2025, up from 390 million in 2019. This can be attributed to the growth of the middle class, in particular, the growing middle-class populations of Asia.

The second-hand market is showing especially promising signs of almost exponential growth though, with the market expected to be worth $51 billion in 2028, up $23 billion from this year’s figure. This is according to a report published by ThredUp, a company that operates as a marketplace for re-selling goods.

“The resale customer is no longer somebody else’s customer; they are everybody’s customer. Mass market or luxury, if people can find a high-quality product for much less, they’ll choose used,” said James Reinhart, ThredUp co-founder and CEO.

The 2019 report discusses the increased awareness that today’s consumers have of retail’s environmental impact. ThredUp report that almost 90% of retail executives are in favor of moving into the re-selling market, to boost sales.