SheIn one of the fastest growing online fast fashion retailers and a popular choice among many college students due to the extremely affordable pricing and trendy appeal. As a fast fashion company, it is no surprise that SheIn is not sustainable. Ranging from no transparency regarding their labor and supply chain practices to the cultivation of a culture of overconsumption, SheIn is one of the least sustainable fashion brands. Simply shaming consumers from buying from fast fashion companies like Shein is counterproductive especially due to the financial limitations of some consumers. I believe a more inclusive and impactful direction for sustainability in fashion on the individual level is limiting overconsumption for new (and used) clothing.
SheIn claims to be environmentally conscious, “When selecting fabrics, we do our best to source recycled fabric, such as recycled polyester, a non-virgin fibre that has little impact on the environment and reduces damage to the original material. However, it is not enough for a major company like SheIn to say “we do our best”. Clearly, this is an instance of greenwashing since they do not provide tangible proof of their efforts to source recycled fabric.
Furthermore, due to the low price point of their items, nearly all of their items are based on some cheap fabric such as polyester, an extremely environmentally problematic fabric. Polyester is produced from petroleum, is not biodegradable, highly polluting and requires high energy use in production. Polyester itself isn't extremely unsustainable from a consumer care standpoint – polyester garments last a really long time and require less water, energy and heat for washing. Polyester fabrics open yet another can of worms: microplastics. According to recent studies, with every wash, polyester sheds microplastics, which have damaging effects such as carcinogenicity
However, the main issue with the low price point is that it encourages a dangerous culture of overconsumption. This effect reveals why SheIn is more dangerous than its less affordable fast fashion counterparts. For those who can afford it, prioritizing the eco-impact of fabrics along with consuming less is the most sustainable direction for fashion consumption.
SheIn does not provide the names of the suppliers, but provides meaningless fluff. One example of this is an audit by the California Transparency In Supply Act. The report claims to verify SheIn’s sustainable factory practices and supplier but the report provides no tangible practices or names of suppliers.
Furthermore, SheIn claims their factories are “ISO certified”, which is extremely misleading. “The ISO develops international standards, it does not issue nor take part in the actual issuing of ISO Certificates. Rather, certifications are performed by external certification bodies. So, technically, a brand cannot be certified BY ISO.”
They also claim to have begun using an innovative Digital Printing technology to print graphics and patterns onto fabrics. Once again, SheIn provides no proof of the implementation of this technology.
Furthermore, SheIn steals many designs from and does not credit independent creators to make their products on trend and marketable.
SheIn is an international B2C affordable fast fashion e-commerce platform. They market themselves as a an affordable, on-trend fashion company, which they hold true to. However, this makes their “commitment” to social responsibility seem that much more of an afterthought.
The first section below SheIn’s “About Us” tab on their website is a page dedicated to "Social Responsibility", a visual depiction of the greenwashing that permeates throughout their company. The first statement on the page is "We’re in the "doing good business"- for your wardrobe and the world". Does SheIn do any good though?
SheIn does not provide any tangible transparency on the labor practices they employ. They only provide vague statements such as “we proactively campaign against unethical practices”, “our wages and benefits are above industry standard”, “everyone is treated with respect” but provide no concrete evidence for any statement.
On their website, SheIn states, “We treat all of our employees like family by providing industry leading working conditions... We are proudly in compliance with strict fair labor standards” such as no child labor, independent audits, a safe working environment, paying livable wages set by organiztions like SA8000. However, the word choice of “compliant” is critical in this statement. To confirm these practices, a company needs to be SA800 certified, which SheIn is not allowing them to avert responsibility for these standards.