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This article is based on the Forever 21 rating published in July 2020.
Positioning itself as “fun ‘n’ flirty on a budget” has clearly worked well for Forever 21. This family-owned brand has grown over the last 36 years to be one of the biggest specialty retailers in the United States, and has over 790 stores globally. But the brand has a history riddled with controversies. From ripping off independent artists, to releasing culturally insensitive designs, to using straight-sized models in advertising for plus-sized clothing and even shipping plus-sized orders with weight loss bars—yikes! But what about behind the scenes… is Forever 21 doing the right thing for people, the planet, and animals? How ethical is Forever 21?
Forever 21 has failed to say anything meaningful about its sustainability policies—or lack thereof. As a shopper, we believe that you have the right to know how a brand’s production practices impact on our environment. This lack of transparency is ‘Very Poor’.
Forever 21 is ‘Very Poor’ for people, too. The brand received a score of 0-10% in the Fashion Transparency Index. None of its supply chain is certified by labour standards which ensure worker health and safety, living wages, or other labour rights. It also publishes zero information about its supplier policies and audits, and doesn’t disclose any policies or safeguards to protect suppliers and workers in its supply chain from the impacts of COVID-19.
It is one of the only fast fashion brands to still refuse to sign the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety—a legally binding agreement which requires brands to ensure safe working conditions in supplier factories. It has also made no progress towards paying employees across its supply chain with a living wage.
Its animal rating is a couple of steps above the rest at ‘It’s A Start’. It has a general statement about minimising animal suffering but not a formal animal welfare policy. It does not use fur, angora, leather, down, or exotic animal skin, but it does use wool and exotic animal hair. There is also no evidence it traces any animal products, even to the first stage of production!
Overall rating: We Avoid
Overall, Forever 21 received our lowest possible score of ‘We Avoid’. Even compared to other fast fashion giants such as H&M and Uniqlo, Forever 21 is left trailing behind. It’s time for Forever 21 stop paying lip-service to corporate social responsibility and to be more transparent.
Note that Good On You ratings consider 100s of issues and it is not possible to list every relevant issue in a summary of the brand’s performance. For more information see our How We Rate page and our FAQs.
While sustainable brands with thousands of products under $70 may not be realistic—and nor should it be, if we talk about the true cost of fashion—there are a few options out there if you’re on a budget. Read our articles on affordable sustainable brands and having ethical taste on a fast fashion budget, or check out these options below for some price or style matches to suit your needs.
Ethical alternatives to Forever 21