It may be pretty on the surface, but things get a little murky as you go down the supply chain. “We Avoid” PrettyLittleThing due to its lack of positive action for people, the planet, and animals. This article is based on the published in July 2020.
Not so pretty underneath
On the surface, Boohoo-owned PrettyLittleThing appears—well, pretty. Its Instagram account, boasting almost 15 million followers, is full of diverse, happy-looking women sporting colourful and trendy clothes. The brand, founded in the UK in 2012 as a small accessories-only company, has since grown to one of the largest fast fashion retailers. It is a go-to option for size inclusivity, featuring extensive plus, tall, and petite ranges. But we know by now that rapid production at low prices is a classically unsustainable business model, so let’s dig a little deeper and see if the “pretty” continues below the surface for workers, animals, and the environment. How ethical is PrettyLittleThing?
Off the bat, PrettyLittleThing’s environment rating is “Not Good Enough”. It doesn’t use eco-friendly materials, instead opting for planet-damaging polyester in most of its lineup. There is no evidence it has taken meaningful action to reduce or eliminate hazardous chemicals, nor does it implement any water reduction initiatives. While it does measure and report on greenhouse gas emissions from its direct operations, it skips over the supply chain! PrettyLittleThing also follows the take-make-waste model of fast fashion brands, selling hundreds of styles that end up in landfill after just a few wears. There is a long way to go before this brand could be considered good for the planet.
For a brand promoting such pretty and happy people, scoring the lowest possible labour rating of “Very Poor” is an even bigger disappointment. Some of PLT’s supply chain is certified by Sedex Members Ethical Trade Audit – SMETA Best Practice Guidance in the final stage of production, but the rest is all bad news. It received a score of 0-10% in the Fashion Transparency Index, much like fellow low-rated fast fashion retailers Fashion Nova, Boohoo, and Revolve. It publishes zero or minimal information about its supplier policies and audits, and it doesn’t disclose any information about forced labour, gender equality, or freedom of association. While PLT ambassadors seem happy, the same can’t be said for workers in the supply chain. There is also no evidence it ensures payment of a living wage or any policies or safeguards to protect suppliers and workers from the impacts of COVID-19.
In a not-so-shocking turn of events, PrettyLittleThing is rated “Not Good Enough” for our animal friends. While it doesn’t use fur, down, angora, or exotic animal skin or hair, it does use leather and wool without stating sources. There is no evidence it has a policy to minimise the suffering of animals, nor that it traces any animal products to the first stage of production, so there is no way to guarantee the welfare of any animals along the supply chain.
Overall rating: We Avoid
So, how ethical is PrettyLittleThing? Based on our own research, we gave PrettyLittleThing our lowest overall rating of “We Avoid”. In fact, it sits up there in our top ten fast fashion brands we avoid at all costs. The brand has to turn its act around for people, the planet, and animals before any part of its behind-the-scenes can be considered “pretty”. By being more transparent about its practices and making crucial improvements to everything from worker wages to materials, PLT could see its score increase.
Note that Good On You ratings consider hundreds 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.
We know that size inclusivity is one of the most significant barriers for people trying to shop more ethically, and there is no shame in shopping for brands that are making a start if they best suit your needs. Fortunately, there are tons of size-inclusive ethical alternatives to PrettyLittleThing out there to help you slow your consumption down and invest in quality pieces that will stand the test of time. Here are a few of our faves.
“Good” and “Great” alternatives to PrettyLittleThing