Fast-fashion retailers accused of greenwashing – report

Fast fashion retailers stand accused of misleading young customers with “patently false” environmental and animal-friendly claims.

Ethical Consumer said a new wave of fast-fashion brands, targeted primarily at Gen Z, were making unsubstantiated, greenwashed claims to encourage them to buy extremely cheap clothes. These included Shein, reportedly the most talked about brand on TikTok and YouTube in 2020.

The research group’s biennial guide, High Street Clothing, investigated, scored and ranked the ethical credentials of over 40 mainstream fashion brands.

The criteria considered animal rights policies, pollution and toxics, climate change impact, supply chain practices, workers' rights and tax conduct.

The impact of these new market players risks “undoing years of work” by more established retailers to improve their environmental impact and increase transparency on ethical practices including supply chain and workers’ rights, the group warned.

Online retailer Shein received Ethical Consumer’s worst rating for almost every applicable category: supply chain management, human rights, animal rights, climate change and pollution and toxics.

Brands that received Ethical Consumer’s worst rating for animal rights include Boohoo, Missguided, Pretty Little Thing and Nasty Gal.

Companies that received the worst rating for pollution and toxics include Boohoo, I Saw it First, In the Style, Missguided, Quiz and Shein.

Alex Crumbie, researcher, Ethical Consumer, said: “Young people do not know a life without fast-fashion, and it’s extremely concerning to see companies such as Shein, which at the time of writing has an astounding 21,139 ‘daily new’ products – targeting them on this scale and with very little detail available on its ethical practices and environmental impact. To be targeted in this way with the sheer volume of cheap goods flies in the face of progress.

“What’s more, we know today’s young people are the most environmentally-conscious to date. Shein ‘strictly no animal’ policy, which the brand boasts on its website, was found to be patently false as we discovered numerous animal-derived products sold on its site – clearly showing the brand intends to exploit Gen Z’s good intentions.”

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