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River Island unveils its 'The Kind Society' sustainability strategy

By Danielle Wightman-Stone


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Image: River Island

British retailer River Island has unveiled its sustainability strategy, ‘The Kind Society,’ featuring 12 key commitments, aligned to the United Nations Sustainability Goals, focusing on the “four Ps” - people, planet, principles and partners.

“Kindness goes beyond compliments and favours. At River Island, kindness is about us, as a business, building a relationship with the environment and society where we put in more than we take out. That’s why it’s time to take responsibility: we need a kindness revolution,” said the retailer in a statement.

‘The Kind Society’ represents River Island’s overall sustainable vision to share its internal progress and pledges on its journey to become more sustainable, to make sure that “everything River Island, from handbags to HQ, is kinder to the world and people around us”.

River Island chief executive, Will Kernan, said: “I’m proud to introduce The Kind Society, by River Island: our new initiative to share and explain the sustainability journey that we are undertaking as a business. Fashion is the heart of River Island, it always will be, but we recognise that the industry needs to undergo significant change. We believe fashion can, and should, be a force for good, and that belief informs our sustainability work.

“The necessity for action is pressing, and we want to make it easy for our customers to make more sustainable choices. As a high street retailer, it is our responsibility to make the changes to our that allow sustainability to become part of our customers’ day to day lives.”

River Island commits to sustainability with a new people, planet, principles and partners strategy

Key commitments in the sustainability manifesto include ensuring that at least 50 percent of its garments have sustainable attributes by 2023 and that they reduce water use in its products manufacturing process by 50 percent by 2030. River Island also wants to acquire full visibility up to tier 4 in its products supply chain and implement a Manufacturers Restricted Substance List (MRSL) within its supply chain by 2023.

The retailer is also looking to have zero waste to landfill from all UK operations by 2023 and from its products’ manufacturing process by 2025 and introduce products’ end-of-life solutions for customers by end of 2022.

River Island adds that it will also eliminate all single-use plastics from its UK operations by 2022 and will be net-zero carbon emissions by the end of 2040.

As well as the environment, River Island also noted that people are a priority for its business and that another key commitment will be to continue actively promoting the recruitment of candidates from diverse social backgrounds.

Kernan said: “Working together with expert partners and recognised organisations, we have developed a comprehensive sustainability strategy. River Island remains a family-owned business, and values of community and care are central to the way we operate. This ethos means that as a company and as individuals, sustainability is something we care about immensely.

“As a result of this work, we have made significant changes to our business already – focused around ensuring we can continuously improve our impact. Our teams are working incredibly hard on this every day, and I’m proud of the journey that we have started.”

River Island: "In short, every thread counts. So let’s work for a Kind Society, together."

While its sustainable strategy is ongoing, River Island said it has already achieved key successes, including eliminating single-use plastic from its packaging, ensuring that all cotton in its jeans is responsibly sourced, and achieving 100 percent traceability and auditing of tier 1 supply chain and 40 percent from its tier 2 downwards.

Other progress has included sending more than 850,000 garments reused or recycled through its ‘Newlife’ partnership in 2021, switching to 100 percent green energy in all its stores, head office and distribution centre, and launching its take-back scheme in partnership with Reskinned in 2022. It also reported that one in four of its products has sustainable attributes and that it saved 1,223 tonnes of cardboard and 20 tonnes of plastic saved in 2021 from going to landfill from its distribution centre.

Kernan added: “In the coming year, we will focus on improving transparency in our supply chain and introducing robust water and chemical programmes, working with our partners to achieve our goals.

“The scale of the problem is significant, and there’s still a long way to go: not only for us at River Island, but within the fashion industry at large. It will be complex and challenging for us all, but we’re committed to making the changes necessary, sharing the progress we make and hurdles we meet as we work towards an industry that’s kinder for all.”

River Island