How Ethical Is SHEIN? - Good On You
woman wearing cheap bodycon dress by SHEIN
24 Mar
woman wearing cheap bodycon dress by SHEIN

How Ethical Is SHEIN?

One of the fastest growing online fast fashion retailers, SHEIN was founded in 2008 and now boasts an Instagram following of 18 million people. The brand goes by the philosophy that “everyone can enjoy the beauty of fashion”. It sells clothes at alarmingly low prices and of very dubious quality—if your package arrives at all. No stranger to controversy, in 2020 the brand was accused of selling offensive items, from Islamic prayer rugs as decorative mats to a necklace in the shape of a swastika. That’s not what we call “the beauty of fashion”.

Like Boohoo, SHEIN is as opaque as a brand can get. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a contact number on the website, let alone information about the supply chain! It relies on influencers for its marketing and is especially appealing for young women on a budget. All that aside, let’s take a deeper look into how this mass-producing brand treats people, the planet, and animals across the supply chain. How ethical is SHEIN?

Environmental Impact

SHEIN gets our lowest score of ‘Very Poor’ for the planet. Aside from using a couple of eco-friendly materials here and there, there is no evidence the brand is taking any meaningful action to reduce its substantial impact on the environment. From hazardous chemicals to carbon emissions to microplastics, SHEIN is making zero effort! On top of that, brands mass-producing such cheap, poorly-made clothing perpetuate a throwaway fashion culture simply by existing. SHEIN would have to do a complete 360 to raise its score in this area.

Labour Conditions

It should come as no surprise that SHEIN makes as much effort for people as it does for the planet—next to none. It is rated ‘Very Poor’ here, too. Again, aside from auditing some percentage of its supply chain, it is making no headway on improving its labour conditions. Workers should have the right to a living wage, collective bargaining, an abuse-free work environment, and some protection from the impacts of COVID-19. Do better, SHEIN.

Animal Welfare

One area where SHEIN is at least making a start is for animal welfare, but only because it doesn’t use leather, exotic animal hair, fur, down, angora, or exotic animal skin in its products. It does use wool without stating sources, doesn’t appear to have a policy to minimise the suffering of animals, and doesn’t trace any animal products even to the first stage of production. It gets ‘It’s A Start’ for the animals, but there is certainly room for improvement.

Overall Rating: We Avoid

So, how ethical is SHEIN? In a not-so-shocking conclusion, SHEIN receives our lowest possible score of ‘We Avoid’ overall. The brand has a lot of work to do across all three areas and needs to make some serious improvements if it hopes to receive a higher score.

Ethical brands with hundreds of products under $50 may not be realistic—and nor should they be, if we talk about the true cost of fashion—but there are a few options out there for those on a budget. Read our articles on affordable sustainable brands and 8 alternatives to SHEIN, or check out these options below.

See the rating.

Here are some ‘Good’ and ‘Great’ alternatives to SHEIN.

Good Swaps

Sustainable alternatives to SHEIN

CHNGE

Rated: Great

CHNGE is a US-based sustainable fashion brand using 100% organic material, built to last a lifetime while making a statement. Find CHNGE's inclusive clothes in sizes 2XS-4XL.

See the rating.

Shop CHNGE.

Afends

Rated: Good

Afends is an Australia-based fashion brand leading the way in organic hemp fashion, using renewable energy in its supply chain to reduce its climate impact. You can find the full range in sizes XS-XL.

See the rating.

Shop Afends.

nu-in

Rated: Good
close up of woman wearing white eco-friendly blouse from nu-in brand

nu-in is a European brand that features activewear, loungewear, and underwear collections, as well as trend-led men's and women's ranges. It prioritises the planet by using a high proportion of eco-friendly materials, and reuses offcuts to minimise textile waste. The brand is inclusively sized, and features an extended sizing range up to 6XL!

See the rating.

Shop nu-in.

Frankie

Rated: Great

Canadian brand Frankie Collective is dedicated to innovating women’s streetwear while setting a standard for sustainability in the fashion industry. It takes inspiration from 90’s staples and reworks vintage garments to push the boundaries of contemporary style. Find most items in sizes XS to XXL.

See the rating.

Shop Frankie.

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. By limiting each garment to short runs, Whimsy + Row utilises deadstock fabric, reduces packaging waste, and takes care of precious water resources. Find most products in XS-XL.

See the rating.

Shop Whimsy + Row.

Editor's note

Feature image via SHEIN, 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 more than 3,000 brands. We may earn a commission on sales made using our offer codes or affiliate links.

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