Ethical Consumer has warned that young people are being misled by the ‘patently false’ environmental and animal-friendly claims of a new wave of emerging fast-fashion online stores.
In its biennial High Street Clothing guide,
the consumer watchdog investigated, scored and ranked the ethical credentials of over 40 mainstream fashion brands.
Criteria included animal rights policies, pollution and toxics, climate change impact, supply chain practices, workers’ rights and tax conduct.
Researchers said new-generation fast-fashion brands, targeted primarily at Gen Z, were pushing fashion ‘faster’, while making unsubstantiated greenwashed claims to encourage them to buy ‘extremely cheap’ clothes.
One example is SHEIN, the most talked about brand on TikTok and YouTube in 2020.
Researchers added the effect of this was to ‘exploit the good intentions’ of Gen Z, who cite climate change and protecting the environment as their No. 1 concern in a recent survey from Deloitte.
The impact of these new market players risks ‘undoing years of work’ by more established retailers to improve their environmental impact and increase transparency on ethical practices including supply chain and worker’s rights.
Spotlight on SHEIN
Researchers found SHEIN’s ‘strictly no animal’ policy to be ‘misleading’, and concluded there was a ‘lack of effort’ across the board on ethical transparency.
SHEIN boasts a ‘strictly no animal’ policy on its website. While it may not appear to use real leather or fur, researchers found items made from down, silk and wool, with no accompanying policies in relation to the sourcing of these materials.
SHEIN received Ethical Consumer’s ‘Worst’ rating for almost every applicable category: supply chain management, human rights, animal rights, climate change and pollution and toxics.
The company has almost nothing on its website about upholding workers’ rights in its supply chain, bar statements such as ‘We never. EVER. engage in child or forced labor’. Without defining the age of the child, this kind of statement is meaningless.
Brands that received Ethical Consumer’s ‘Worst’ rating for Animal Rights include Boohoo, SHEIN, Missguided, Pretty Little Thing and Nasty Gal.