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How ASOS is working to make the high street more sustainable

Posted by
Hannah Keegan
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susanthi williamson Asos fashion sustainability lead laughing at work

Work/Life is Stylist’s regular column about the professional routines of successful women. Here, Sue Williamson talks us through her one-day diary, from morning latte to lights out.  

Sue Williamson, 38, is senior sustainable sourcing associate at Asos. She lives in south-east London with her husband, Neil.

My alarm goes off…

At 6.20am. I’m not a snoozer, I spring up and jump straight in the shower. Then I change into a Ganni dress or some vintage Levi’s. My husband and I catch the train from Forest Hill to London Bridge. I recently downloaded Headspace for the journey: it helps to calm me before I reach the office. I try to use the technique of noticing thoughts versus feelings for the rest of the day.

I’m responsible for…

Driving our sustainable strategy at Asos, as part of the product and integrity team. This involves everything from working closely with our fabric and technical teams on strategy, to training our teams and supporting marketing on sustainable storytelling.

I got the job…

By studying fashion promotion at Southampton University. I went on to work for Asos as a buyer before moving to work on interiors at House of Hackney. In 2015, I came back to Asos for my current role. But it was working on Asos’s Made In Kenya collection – which supported small, Fairtrade supply chains – that ignited my interest in sustainability. What I do is really rewarding.

Asos denim sustainable jeans hanging

Asos is focusing on making its denim from 100% sustainable cotton 

My typical day…

Starts with eating some eggs and avocado I’ve made the night before at my desk. I take time to read emails, look at my diary and make a to-do list. I like to visualise the day ahead. Then I’ll have meetings with lots of different parts of the business – I could be seeing our buying, retail or marketing teams. My role is to offer guidance and strategise how we can hit our sustainability goals. I’m there with the knowledge of sustainable practices for them to draw from.

Right now, I’m really passionate about our denim initiative. Denim has a high environmental impact, so we’ve made it our goal to source sustainable cotton for our denim – we’re on track for 100% by the end of 2019. The finishes you use make a difference too, so we’re working more with lasers rather than chemicals and water.

At 12pm, I leave the office to get some air and grab some soup. Depending what’s happening that afternoon, I might have to see marketing if they’re planning to put an Instagram story up, for example. I check the wording and that the information is correct. Or we’ll meet to discuss upcoming projects and how we can share the news withour audience. I often travel to trade shows and conferences in Europe, sometimes to present, sometimes to soak it in. I finish at 5.30pm.

Asos clothing hanging on a rail

Every garment is assessed on its environmental credentials

My most memorable work moment…

Was when we surpassed our sustainable cotton target of 70% in 2017. That was a good day.

The worst part of my job…

Is that I want things to happen faster than they can.

The best part of my job…

Is, honestly, the people. I work with a team who really care about making the fashion industry environmentally and socially better.

After work…

I might go to a reformer pilates class at Studio One near my house. My husband and I will then cook together, something like salmon and vegetables, and watch an uplifting show like The Good Place. I’ve just started a gratitude journal on the recommendation of a friend: I write down three things I’m thankful for in a small notebook – it helps put it all into perspective. I’m asleep by 10.30pm.

My Plan B: Florist

I am mad about plants. I have 30 or so at home and have been banned from buying any more. But, for me, they are so calming and I enjoy taking care of them. If I were to do something else, I think I’d open a flower shop and spread the joy.

Photography: Holly McGlynn