Fast fashion giant Shein is coming under increasing scrutiny for lack of supply chain transparency. The Chinese company, thought to be valued at 15 billion dollars, is best known for selling ultra cheap fashion online outside out China. This week it was called out for falsely stating its factories were certified by the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) and labour standards organisation SA8000.
According to Reuters neither company issued certifications to Shein, which saw the elusive retailer swiftly remove their mentions from its social responsibility web page.
For a company selling 15 euro dresses and 3 euro tops in mostly unethical fibres, Shein has much to answer to in terms of how and where it makes its clothes and under which conditions. In the UK companies that sell over 36 million pounds of goods per year must make this information available on their websites, clearly stating how it combats forced labour, under the UK’s 2015 Modern Slavery Act. This information is currently not available, although Shein told Reuters it is working on a policy text for its UK website requirements.
“As opaque as a brand can get”
In March Good on You, a company rating fashion brands for their ethical credentials, said Shein is a business to avoid and “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.”
At the time of writing Shein’s Instagram boasts over 21 million followers, the majority of which are indeed young women posing in its collections. On its website’s social responsibility link Shein states: “We in the ‘doing good’ business, for your wardrobe and the world. The world is our runway. By turning to sustainable practices and fabrics, we’re doing our part in keeping the planet as pretty as can be.”
A random search for recycled polyester options, which the company states is one of its go-to fabrics, shows just one item in the men’s bottoms category, versus 3,600 non-recycled polyester items. The majority of its cotton items are also mixed with polyester, with an overall lack of natural fibres available throughout all collection categories. As for their supply chain, there is no certainty any garments are made under best policy practices.
When a top retails for three euros, somebody or something (person or planet) has to suffer for that to be a profitable item, and it is not Shein.