Friday 21 October 2016

Ethical Sportswear On The High Street? You'll be Lucky...

Was anyone surprised by the revelations about the way Sports Direct treats its staff? Well, no, but even so, the revelations of monitored toilet breaks, harassment and medical emergencies on the packing lines brought on by overwork were still shocking.

The news has left many of us wondering whether there are better, more ethical alternatives to the active-wear giant. Sadly, according to a report by Ethical Consumer, high street sports apparel retailers are not doing their best by the people that work for them, or the environment.

An assessment based on sustainability basics like supply chain transparency, worker rights and and environmental reporting led to a pretty poor showing. In fact, the highest they could score any well-known store was a measly 9 out of 20, shared equally between Intersport and Trespass.

None of the stores surveyed could offer a clear supply chain policy, with the knock-on effect that none could hold that supply chain to account. Worse, only one brand, Decathlon, could confirm that they don't use zero-hour contracts. Go Outdoors openly advertise them, despite the fact that Sports Direct were heavily criticised for their use.

Activewear chains seem genuinely clueless on environmental concerns as well, with no clear policy in place for lessening the use of toxic chemicals in their products or avoiding ranges that involve the use of animal cruelty (like merino for base layers, for example). Only Decathlon had any sort of plan for softening the environmental impact of their stores. Silence from every other brand.

Your best bet, Ethical Consumer concludes, is to stay off the high street altogether if you want to shop ethically for your sportswear. Brands like Yew and Páramo offer great alternatives to the big brands with a properly sustainable outlook.

It's sad to think that so many of our big stores seem to care so little about ethical concerns. Until they start paying attention, it's best for those of us in the know to take our business elsewhere.

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