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24 Apr

How Ethical Is Temu? Why We Rate the Brand ‘We Avoid’

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Temu’s lack of transparency is a big red flag. Here’s why we rate the brand “We Avoid”, our lowest rating. This article is based on the Temu rating published in February 2024 and may not reflect claims the brand has made since then. Our ratings analysts are constantly rerating the thousands of brands you can check on our directory.

Why is Temu so bad?

The growth of Temu—a marketplace founded by Chinese company PDD Holdings—has snowballed since its US launch in 2022 and subsequent expansion to Australia, New Zealand, and Europe in 2023. How? “Its appeal is clear. In the midst of rising inflation around the world, Temu has attracted customers through its seemingly limitless range and incredibly low prices,” explains the Guardian.

In an effort to connect with customers in the United States, the brand invested in commercial air time during the 2024 Super Bowl, buying three ads, which Business Insider estimates cost $7m each.

Temu might be a new name for many people in the fashion space, so here’s what you need to know: Temu sells everything from clothes to electronics and car parts. It says it’s “committed to offering the most affordable quality products to enable consumers and merchandise partners to fulfil their dreams in an inclusive environment.” It also says it’s dedicated to helping consumers “live their best lives” by connecting them with “millions of merchandise partners, manufacturers and brands.”

Everything about this and Temu raises a red flag. We must question the brand’s impact on the environment and animals, not to mention the people creating these products. In short, how ethical is Temu?

Millions of merchandise partners? Affordable products? An inclusive environment? Temu’s business model sounds similar to SHEIN’s (with which it’s currently in a legal battle)—the brand sells vast quantities of cheap products that are the opposite of sustainable.

And if you’re looking for information on the brand’s practices? Good luck, because they’re nowhere to be found. Temu doesn’t provide enough information about its business, impact, or sustainability efforts for our analysts to award it any points against our ratings methodology.

Environmental impact

On its very brief sustainability page, Temu says it has an “ongoing commitment to environmental sustainability”. Its proof? The brand is partnering with Trees for the Future to “plant trees across sub-Saharan Africa”, a project that has had “a transformative effect on the land and local communities, while also addressing global environmental concerns,” according to Temu. Not only does this sound like greenwashing, but it’s also very unlikely this sole strategy has any significant impact, especially as the responsibility falls to the shopper to choose to plant a tree at checkout.

And as we mentioned earlier, Temu is also responsible for promoting overconsumption and overproduction.

A congressional report estimated that packages from Temu and competitor Shein are likely responsible for roughly 600,000 packages shipped to the US on a daily basis under the de minis provision (a rule that means packages of $800 or less won’t be subject to import duties or required to provide information about the contents).

Temu has also been criticised for its constant discounting, promotional offers, referral schemes, and gamification of the shopping experience through its app, which all encourage users to keep purchasing and have been likened to online gambling.

Labour conditions

Temu does not share information about its labour practices, so it’s impossible to know if workers employed by its suppliers are treated and paid fairly. However, it is safe to assume that $5 garments aren’t priced high enough to cover the cost of living wages for the garment workers who made the item.

The brand says it prohibits forced labour, but there’s no explanation of how it enforces this across its thousands of suppliers. And in May 2023, a US congressional committee wrote to Temu requesting information about its compliance with the US anti-forced labour laws, after an investigation found that the company’s business model allowed it to avoid complying with US regulations blocking imports from China’s Xinjiang region, where there is a significant risk of human rights abuses. The report noted that Temu doesn’t have any audit processes in place to assess that risk.

Animal welfare

Like the rest of Temu’s practices, animal welfare is a similarly shady subject with little evidence of any policies to ensure the protection of creatures in and around Temu’s sellers’ supply chains.

Why ‘We Avoid’ Temu

It should come as no surprise that Temu received our lowest score of “We Avoid,” making it one of the worst-rated brands of 2023. The brand’s excessive product range and the potential for labour rights abuses in its supply chain are particularly concerning.

Temu’s lack of transparency means no one can know what is going on behind the scenes of the ultra fast fashion brand, and that’s bad news. Transparency—and publicly available information—are essential in holding brands accountable for their actions and helping consumers make more informed choices about which brands they buy from.

You have a right to know how the products you buy affect the issues you care about, so our recommendation is to steer clear of Temu.

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.

See the rating.

Good swaps

In these articles we usually give you a handful of “Good” and “Great” alternatives. However, in the case of Temu, there isn’t really an alternative that we can recommend, because it’s simply not possible to find an ethically made t-shirt for $5. And few retailers offer as many products with as many discounts as Temu does.

However, there are some marketplaces and multi-brand e-commerce websites that specialise in more sustainable brands and products by carefully selecting what is featured, so you can still find what you need in one place, without the unethical practices of Temu.

Made Trade

Made Trade has a carefully curated collection that is categorised into one or more values—from Fair Trade to vegan, and People of Colour-owned to sustainable.

Shop the collection @ Made Trade.

Rêve en Vert

Rêve en Vert is a luxury retail platform for more sustainable and ethical goods—the plaftorm says it offers an invitation to engage in creating a better world, and to make choices that are in harmony with its natural balance.

Shop the collection @ Rêve en Vert.


Urbankissed is a “slow and ethical marketplace”, featuring a range of clothing, jewellery, menswear, homeware, and beauty products selected for their sustainability.

Shop the collection @ Urbankissed.

Immaculate Vegan

Immaculate Vegan is a lifestyle platform and curated shop for conscious consumers seeking a more ethical and planet-friendly way of living. As its name suggests, the company specialises in vegan and cruelty-free products that are certified as such.

Shop the collection @ Immaculate Vegan.


Wearwell was founded by two friends with a mission to revolutionise the fashion industry to work better for people and the planet. The marketplace makes it easy to find more ethical and sustainable clothes, shoes, accessories, and homewares, and support some of the brands making a positive impact on garment workers and the environment.

Shop the collection @ wearwell.


Earthkind is a multi-brand platform offering a one-stop destination for more sustainably made clothes and accessories. “We exist to introduce, support, and celebrate ethical labels, creators, and designers who share the same vision and are paving the way for the slow fashion movement,” it says.

Shop the collection @ Earthkind.


Cerqular’s mission is to make responsible shopping easily accessible and more affordable for all—on a single platform. To give everyone peace of mind, the retailer verifies every brand for their values, such as more sustainable, organic, recycled, carbon neutral, vegan, eco-friendly, or circular.

Start the collection @ Cerqular.

Vestiaire Collective

A peer-to-peer platform for buying and selling luxury items, Vestiaire Collective is a great place to discover second-hand fashion. Items are independently authenticated to ensure the described condition matches the actual item you receive.

Shop pre-owned fashion @ Vestiaire Collective.

Editor's note

Feature image via Unsplash. 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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