Shein, the fast-fashion giant, has officially become the largest textile manufacturing and distribution company in the world, as it has achieved a valuation of 92,000 million euros, surpassing the sum of the figures for Inditex (62,000 million euros) and H&M (18.5 billion euros).
It’s the most mentioned brand on TikTok, far outpacing even Netflix, McDonald’s, and Starbucks. Shein now accounts for almost a third of the US fast-fashion market. But, while this giant conquers social networks with influencers from all over the world sharing their purchases from Shein, many activists and experts have expressed criticism and protest.
Infamous fast-fashion giant Shein is back in the spotlight after a new investigation finds that workers at its factory are paid as little as 4 cents per garment while working 18-hour shifts.
But why is Shein’s rapid growth worrying sustainability experts so much?
What’s wrong with Shein?
According to CEO Molly Miao, the company releases between 2,000 and 10,000 new items a day. Shein maintains that each new product is produced on a small scale, between 50 and 100 pieces, thus minimizing the amount of waste and scrap they produce. When a product becomes popular, large-scale production begins.
But, even small-scale production contributes to carbon emissions and waste production. Even using a conservative estimate, Shein produces between 35,000 and 100,000 products a day.
Shein’s business model is based on driving demand for new clothes, ensuring that the consumer always finds new items in the store. An analysis of her website found that 70% of her inventory is less than 3 months old. Other fast fashion stores like Zara or H&M have that percentage between 40 and 53%.
In a world where the average consumer throws away 60% of clothing items in the same year they buy them, a strategy like Shein’s clearly contributes to the problem.
Why is Shein bad for the environment?
In general, the fashion industry has long been in the spotlight for being one of the most polluting in the world. And, in this sense, companies like Shein and her business model encourage this to continue happening.
In fact, as Shein’s own marketing manager, Molly Miao, has pointed out, this firm launches between 700 and 1,000 new items a day through its website. Although Shein produces little stock for each press, between 50 and 100 pieces, and that reduces the number of raw materials, when a product becomes a best seller, it is produced in a more massive way, with what that means for the planet, with a further increase in carbon emissions and waste.
To produce their clothes quickly, they rely on harmful chemicals like dyes. These chemicals poison our soil and water, resulting in harm to human and marine life. Farmers also use chemicals, primarily pesticides, to grow the materials needed to produce all of these fast-fashion items. This results in additional damage to the planet, much less to the farmers themselves.
Their clothes are cheap, which means they are of low quality. They break after months of use and end up thrown away. Encouraging such a company to continue its operations means further harm to the planet as they will only end up in landfills.
Anything but sustainable
If sustainability means consuming less, giving garments a second life and avoiding waste, Shein promotes the opposite. The business model of this firm is to boost demand and make the consumer want to buy and buy more.
Experts who have examined the Shein website say that 70% of its products are less than three months old, while at Zara or H&M that percentage is reduced by between 40% and 50%.
The textile industry consumes, more or less, 100 million tons of oil a year and polyester, which is also seen a lot in Shein’s garments, is a key element of this type of pollution, since its manufacture produces the same amount of CO2 than 180 coal-fired power plants, according to Euronews.
Shein is cruelty-free?
No, Shein is not cruelty-free. They are a hurtful brand and their damage is suffered by farmers, customers, their workers and the environment in general. First of all, they do not offer information about their Animal Welfare Policy on their website and they do not provide information about whether they trace any animal products back to the earliest stage of production.
Second, there is no evidence that the brand has taken significant steps to reduce or eliminate hazardous chemicals. In fact, the more they produce, the more chemicals farmers will use to grow more products that will help make their clothes worthless.
Third, there is no evidence that the brand reduces its carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions in its supply chain. There is no evidence that it has the policy to minimize the impacts of microplastics. Oh, what a tough company.
Fourth, its job qualifications are very low and there is no evidence that it has worker empowerment initiatives such as collective bargaining or the right to file a grievance.
Animal Welfare Policy
SHEIN does not provide information on its Animal Welfare Policy on its website and does not provide information on whether it traces any animal products back to the earliest stage of production.
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