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River Island

How ethical is River Island? 

River Island is a low-ranking brand in The Good Shopping Guide’s Ethical Fashion Retailers Ratings Table.

River Island is a London-based fashion retail brand, owned by River Island Holdings Ltd. River Island receives a poor Good Shopping Guide score in our Ethical Fashion Retailers Ratings Table. Although River Island has not yet met our Ethical Benchmark, we hope to see the brand make progress in the future.

In what areas does River Island perform poorly? 

Despite River Island’s progress, there is still lots of room for improvement. The brand was marked down under our criteria for Human Rights (our People category), due to several incidents of wage theft, unsafe working conditions and paying illegally low wages.

The problem of ‘sweat shops’ or poorly paid garment employees, working in unsafe conditions, is a well-documented one in the world of fast fashion and trend-driven brands, such as River Island. The brand came under fire in 2021, when a report revealed that millions of workers in the garment industry have been denied the wages that are legally owed to them for work already completed.

Millions of garment workers have their wages withheld (stolen) as a result of order cancellations, non-payment, and other harmful business practices by brands during the COVID-19 pandemic. The ability of suppliers to pay their employees, even for work that has already been accomplished, is directly impacted when brands refuse to pay their suppliers or demand reductions. Workers- often women- frequently go without pay for several months while still providing for their families. River Island was found to be amongst the brands whose retail price slashing exacerbated poverty in nations such as Bangladesh, Cambodia, Myanmar, Bangladesh, the Philippines, and Ethiopia.

Other violations from River Island include protests at the factories of River Island supplier, Stylecraft Ltd. The protesting employees asked for 35% of their back pay, full payment for November, arrears for September and October, overtime pay, and other unpaid benefits.

In Leicester, one factory owner described a portion of Leicester’s garment sector as “a country within a country,” where “£5 an hour is regarded as the top wage“. This is an illegal wage in the UK. One employee claimed that he has worked in locations with poor equipment, blocked fire escapes, and no holiday or sick pay. River Island was identified in this Financial Times article as a brand whose factories were violating the rights of its workers.

River Island’s race to the bottom causes Human Rights abuses, and for that, it receives a low rating under our People criteria.

In what areas does River Island perform well? 

After researching River Island, we have found that this brand performs well under our criteria for the Environment and Animal Welfare. For its Environmental Report and Better Cotton Initiative status, River Island has been rated with top marks. This kind of environmental progress is encouraging to see from a large high-street brand.

River Island’s website publishes both an annual progress report and sustainability goals; making these reports public allows consumers and investors to hold the brand to account. Some of River Island’s goals include: ending single-use plastic in all operations in the UK, by 2022, and achieving Net Zero carbon emissions by 2040.

How can River Island brand improve its Ethical Rating?

The Good Shopping Guide score results from multiple ethical criteria. (See our ‘How We Rate’ page to find out more about our research methodology.) To reach our minimum Ethical Benchmark and qualify for Ethical Accreditation, River Island has some issues to resolve, including its Human Rights violations and wage theft.

If your fashion brand values ethics and sustainability, why not check out The Good Shopping Guide‘s Ethical Accreditation? Increase customer and investor confidence and stand out from the greenwash.

Ethical performance in category


GSG score


GSG category benchmark


Ethical Rating


  • Environmental Report


  • Organic


  • Nuclear Power


  • Better Cotton Initiative


  • Fossil Fuels



  • Animal Welfare



  • Armaments


  • Code of Conduct


  • Political Donations


  • Ethical Trading Schemes


  • Human Rights



  • Ethical Accreditation


  • Other Criticisms


= GSG Top Rating = GSG Middle Rating = GSG Bottom Rating