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16 Nov
Two people wearing hoodies and flannel shirts in a faded image behind text that says

How Ethical Is Boohoo?

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Boohoo has expanded rapidly since its launch in 2006. With such rapid growth comes great responsibility, so how ethical is Boohoo? Here’s why the brand is “Not Good Enough” for people, the planet, and animals. This article is based on the Boohoo rating published in September 2022.

Boohoo needs to do better

Founded in Manchester in 2006, Boohoo has grown fast since then: the brand even purchased PrettyLittleThing and Nasty Gal, two other fast fashion brands, in 2017.

But in 2019, Boohoo was named one of the least sustainable fashion brands in the UK in a report published by the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC). In 2020, allegations about worker exploitation by a supplier of Boohoo in Leicester emerged. And just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse, it was even reported that while Boohoo’s sales soared 44% percent during lockdown, factory workers were asked to work with “little to no” social distancing or personal protective equipment (PPE). Yikes.

It should not come as a surprise when we tell you Boohoo’s fast fashion practices have a negative impact on the planet, people, and animals. But let’s take a deeper dive into what this all really means and ask: how ethical is Boohoo?

Environmental impact

Boohoo’s environment rating is “Not Good Enough”: it uses few lower-impact materials and there is no evidence it has taken meaningful action to reduce or eliminate hazardous chemicals. While it has set a science-based target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions generated from its own operations and supply chain, there is no evidence it is on track to meet its target. The brand also doesn’t appear to minimise textile waste when manufacturing its products, crucial for a brand pumping out so many styles so quickly.

Labour conditions

On the labour front, Boohoo also rates “Not Good Enough”, up slightly from our lowest score in its previous rating owing partially to its increase in transparency according to the Fashion Transparency Index, from 0-10% to 21-30% in the 2022 report.

Little of Boohoo’s supply chain is certified by labour standards which ensure worker health and safety or other labour rights, and there is no evidence the brand pays a living wage or implements practices to encourage diversity and inclusion.

As we saw above, Boohoo’s reaction to COVID-19 was not the best, and the brand doesn’t disclose any policies or safeguards to protect suppliers and workers in its supply chain from the impacts of COVID-19.

Animal welfare

There is no evidence that Boohoo has a policy to minimise the suffering of our animal friends. And although it doesn’t use fur, angora, or exotic animal skin and hair, it still uses leather, down, and wool and doesn’t trace any animal products even to the first stage of production. For all these reasons Boohoo’s animal rating is also “Not Good Enough”.

Overall rating: Not Good Enough

Boohoo is still very opaque about its environmental and labour impacts as well as its policies, despite a slight increase in 2022.

In order to improve its rating, Boohoo could continue disclosing more information and being more transparent about its practices.

Transparency aside, Boohoo is a typical example of the newest kind of fast fashion brand, designing and putting clothes on the market even faster than before, sometimes in just under a week. By participating in “ultra fast fashion“, Boohoo encourages a throw-away culture and makes us believe we need to shop more and more to stay on top of trends, creating a constant sense of need and ultimate dissatisfaction.

See the rating.

 

Luckily, the Good On You team found a few “Good” and “Great” alternatives to Boohoo.

Good swaps

More ethical and sustainable alternatives to Boohoo

Afends

Rated: Good
two images of people in tops, shirts and trousers

Offers

Afends – Womenswear Archive Sale

Make a statement with organic hemp clothing that is as good on you as it is on the planet. Up to 50% off, including dresses, baby tees, pants, shorts, skits and more. (Ends: 31 JAN)

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Afends – Menswear Archive Sale

Where streetwear meets sustainability. Shop a complete wardrobe made from 100% lower-impact fabrics, from pants to tees and sweats, featuring a slew of prints. Up to 50% off menswear archive sale, including graphic tees, hoodies, jackets and pants. (Ends: 31 JAN)

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Bio acetate sunglasses designed by Afends.

Afends – Eyewear

Handcrafted in Italy from premium bio-acetate and fit with UV resistant lenses, these sunglasses are leading the way in more sustainable eyewear. Exclusive 20% off eyewear with code GEYEWEAR20. (Ends: 31 JAN)

Checkout code: GEYEWEAR20
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Afends – Denim

Denim, the foundation of Afends. Whether you like ‘em loose, straight or super baggy, they’ve got your next all-day, everyday jeans. Exclusive 20% off denim with code DENIM20. (Ends: 31 JAN)

Checkout code: DENIM20
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Born in Byron Bay, Afends is a responsible brand leading the way in hemp fashion. Drawing inspiration from the environment, streetwear, and surf culture, Afends’ mission is to create more sustainable clothing through innovation, action, and positive change. As true hemp advocates, they purchased 100 acres of farmland called Sleepy Hollow to grow their own hemp crops and ignite the hemp revolution. Explore their range made from 100% eco-conscious threads.

See the rating.

Shop Afends.

Plant Faced Clothing

Rated: Good

Streetwear without sweatshops, that's the motto of this British 100% plant-based, ethical, eco-friendly, and cruelty-free streetwear apparel brand. Buy Plant Faced Clothing in sizes XS-2XL.

See the rating.

Shop Plant Faced Clothing.

Whimsy + Row

Rated: Good

Whimsy + Row is an eco-conscious lifestyle brand born out of a love for quality goods and sustainable practices. Since 2014, its mission has been to provide ease and elegance for the modern, sustainable woman. Whimsy + Row utilises deadstock fabric, and by limiting each garment to short runs, the brand also reduces packaging waste and takes care of precious water resources. Find most products in XS-XL.

See the rating.

Shop Whimsy + Row.

Shop Whimsy + Row @ Earthkind.

Birdsong

Rated: Good

Birdsong is a boutique label producing gorgeous womenswear. Its clothes are handmade in London by knitters and seamstresses earning above the London living wage. The business is built on a philosophy of fairness and authenticity, promising customers “no sweatshop, no photoshop”. Birdsong's products are inclusively sized from 2XS-3XL.

See the rating.

Shop Birdsong.

Shop Birdsong @ SlowCo.

Spell

Rated: Good

Spell is an Australian modern-bohemian fashion brand inspired by far-off places, vintage treasures, and childhood memories. Proudly designed and sampled in Byron Bay, and produced responsibly in factories around the world.

Most garments are available in sizes 2XS-2XL.

See the rating.

Shop Spell.

STANLEY/STELLA

Rated: Good
man wearing dark blue denim shirt by stanley stella

STANLEY/STELLA celebrates simplicity in its pieces by focussing on comfort, quality, and durability. It uses 100% organic cotton and mainly recycled polyester to support the circular economy and reduce waste.

See the rating.

Shop STANLEY/STELLA.

Editor's note

Feature image via Unsplash, all other images via brands mentioned. Good On You publishes the world’s most comprehensive ratings of fashion brands’ impact on people, the planet, and animals. Use our directory to search thousands of rated brands.

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