Shein was first established in 2008, starting as a retailer of wedding dresses, and gradually extended its reach to become the world’s largest online destination for shopping. It became the most popular app, with over 17.5 million downloads combined from the Apple and Google Play stores in July 2021. Shein currently accounts for 28% of the fast-fashion industry in the US alone and is rumored to be moving towards an IPO. However, the one-stop shop for fashionistas has come under scrutiny for its use of environmentally harmful items. This article explores how the most popular fashion brand “SHEIN” is devastating for both people and the environment.
From the quality of their clothing to their unethical labor methods, this well-known fashion retailer has a plethora of issues associated with it. Shein is devastating for both people and the environment.
Let us first draw attention to the environmental destruction Shein continues to create.
1. Harmful Raw Materials
They use hazardous chemicals, such as dyes, to make their fast-fashion apparel. These substances contaminate our land and water, harming people and aquatic life. When discharged into the environment, the microfibers. When released into the environment, the microfibers will operate as a beacon for organic pollutants and accumulate poisonous substances from surfactants and fire-retardant chemicals. This jeopardizes not just the marine creatures but also the people associated.
2. Plastic Waste
Most Shein apparel is composed of virgin synthetic materials like polyester, which is created from fossil fuels and plastic. Production of one year’s worth of virgin polyester produces over 700 million tonnes of CO2 yearly, equivalent to 180 coal-fired power plants.
On the other hand, plastics are non-biodegradable. Thus, Shein items do not decay as quickly as cotton or wool clothing when thrown out. As a result, they will keep damaging the environment, mainly when they produce CO2. Additionally, it maintains the demand for and reliance on fossil fuels, contributing to climate change and global warming.
3. Lack of Transparency
According to the business, they recycle their goods. However, their recycling initiative leaves less of an impression. The corporation is discreet about what happens to its apparel, how much it is recycled or sold again, and what it is turned into.
Shein’s website contains no information on its animal welfare policy and says nothing about whether it traces any of its goods back to the earliest manufacturing stage.
The Fashion Transparency Index, created by the non-profit organization Fashion Revolution, evaluates and ranks 250 of the largest fashion companies and retailers globally based on their open disclosure of their human rights and environmental policies, practices, and their associated effect on the operations and supply chains. Shein’s score is 0 of 20. This further demonstrates how Shein is devastating for both humans and the environment.
4. Low-Quality Products
Shein generates an incredible amount of inexpensive, throwaway clothing. The items are of inferior quality and rip after only a few months of usage. Since putting the returns back into circulation would be more expensive due to the clothing’s low cost, the majority of returns most likely end up in landfills.
Shein publishes roughly 6,000 new designs daily, using between 100 and 150 litres of water for every kilogram of fiber used for garments. That amounts to almost 150,000 litres of water used every day to produce apparel that will be thrown in a landfill in a few months.
Shein has been steadily eating the fashion industry because of how inexpensive and evasively simple it is to get something from them. With such lowered pricing, the public has become so spoilt that a significant portion of them have entirely shifted to fast fashion. Smaller enterprises may altogether fail as a result of this.
Shein claims on its CSR page that it “always practices fair labour“ and “never EVER engage[s] in child or forced labour,” however, according to a 2017 investigation by Reuters, Shein has not offered sufficient transparency into its supplier chain. Their labour ratings are pretty low, and there is no proof that they have worker empowerment programs like collective bargaining or complaint rights.
Independent designers have often accused the fast-fashion giant of copying their work, and Shein, in particular has come under fire. Bailey Prado, a crochet artist with offices in London and Los Angeles, charged Shein with stealing 45 of her designs in August of last year.
Is There a Way Out?
There is no denying that “SHEIN” is devastating for both people and the environment. Their economic strategy is pushing us even farther in the wrong direction at a time when the environment is in peril.
If SHEIN renounced its linear business models and changed its mindsets about disseminating new products, it may open opportunities for more ethical and sustainable fashion. After all, Sustainability is ultimately about buying and consuming less.
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