Edgy Swedish brand Cheap Monday are taking steps to build a sustainable future, but is this fast-fashion label worth investing in today? We get to the bare bones of the issue and take a look at their treatment of people, planet and animals. Do they put their money where their mouth is, or are there skeletons hiding in their greenwashed closet?
Environmental Impact: It’s a Start
Cheap Monday, owned by H&M, have set some good standards on transparency but still create short-lived, fast fashion products. However, it’s clear they’re taking steps to improve their stance on sustainability.
They are a member of the Better Cotton Initiative, offer a recycling program (including textile collection bins at the London flagship store), and they report on the percentage of products recovered in this program. Renewable energy is used for part of the supply chain, and the brand has set a target to use 100% renewable energy for its purchased electricity by 2035, though no supply chain target has been set. Water usage and wastewater management are also reported on, though only for some of the supply chain. The brand aims to eliminate hazardous and toxic chemicals by 2020 – the Greenpeace Detox 2020 Campaign called them (H&M) the “detox avant-garde”. H&M have also claimed they intend to be “climate positive” across all their brands by 2040.
While these are all commendable efforts on their part, the fact is that the brand still follows a fast-fashion approach, which means its products just aren’t made to last and end up in landfill. When a mass quantity of clothing is made with mostly unsustainable materials, it isn’t good news for the environment. On top of this, no clear time-bound reduction target has been set for carbon emissions across the supply chain, nor for water management, despite making a “public commitment” to act on both fronts. Cheap Monday need to act on their promises and look at using more sustainable materials if they wish to achieve a better rating in this category.
Labour Conditions: It’s a Start
Cheap Monday achieved a rating of ‘It’s a Start’ for labour conditions based on the 2018 Ethical Fashion Report, which looks at criteria including payment of a living wage, transparency and worker empowerment. They received the top score for their Supplier Code of Conduct included in the supplier contracts. They trace most of their supply chain including final stage, inputs and raw materials. All or a portion of suppliers are publicly listed along with their addresses, and most of their traced facilities are audited over a two-year period. Progress is being made towards establishing the payment of a living wage for workers across some of the supply chain.
However, very few worker empowerment initiatives are in place. While Cheap Monday are doing better in this category than some of their fast-fashion peers, they still have a long way to go before achieving the top score. By introducing worker empowerment initiatives and ensuring payment of a living wage across the entire supply chain, they could really blow the competition out of the water.
Animal Welfare: It’s a Start
While Cheap Monday do use wool, leather and exotic animal hair, the wool is from non-mulesed sheep. They use leather without specifying sources, which means animal welfare could be compromised in production. They also claim in their FAQ that they don’t use real leather in their products, all while selling shoes made from “100% cow leather”! Confusing to say the least. On a positive note, they do not use fur, down, or exotic animal skin.
Cheap Monday could benefit from a materials overhaul and invest in more eco and animal-friendly materials. While they have made a start on this with their Sustainable c/o Collection which includes PCW (post consumer waste) materials, by introducing this across all their lines they could really make a difference for animals and the planet.