When it comes to fast fashion brands, SHEIN is on top of the list. This Chinese fashion label has seen rapid growth by appealing to a younger age group that is heavily influenced by social media trends.
Believe it or not, the fast, cheap, and out-of-control sudden rise of SHEIN was valued at $100 billion (£78 billion), which is more than H&M and Zara combined. The question is:
How ethical is Shein work environment?
After several videos went viral on social media suggesting that SHEIN workers had written “help” on the tags of specific clothing. Countless customers of the fast-fashion clothing brand SHEIN have allegedly spotted “secret messages” in clothing tags and published them on TikTok. Some videos even have received millions of views and likes.
What’s really happening at Shein?Footage credits: @betweenthelies, @urlocalbrwnskn, @jaylopat, @ashmagnet, @nohroe15, @kaylaa12121, Shein#Shein #FastFashion
According to Rolling Stone, one tag stitched into some apparel that said “Do not dry clean due to water saving technology, need your help washing with the soft detergent the first time” was used as proof endorsing the claim.
“NEED YOUR HELP”
My sister's classmates ordered clothes in Shein and it brought this written on the label pic.twitter.com/68JjEUMZIG
— —愛 sora (@yuutamybeloved_) June 1, 2022
Also, many more snapshots of this fast fashion clothing tag “need your help” as a hidden message directing buyers on how to clean the clothing have been floating on the internet.
How Shein responded to the “Help Me” accusations with denial
SHEIN reacted to the claims with a TikTok video in which they alleged that the videos “contain misleading and inaccurate information” about the company.
“We want to be very clear that we take supply chain issues extremely seriously. […] Our stringent Code of Conduct forbids vendors from exploiting child or forced labour, and we will not tolerate noncompliance,” company officials remarked.
Basically, the Chinese fast fashion company denied any charge of misconduct. However, the reply was the classic corporate lingo, and it didn’t really answer the, very, specific accusations.
These photographs of tags, they said, were actually taken by other firms and posted on TikTok. For example, WXYZ 7 Action News uploaded a video of a lady receiving a parcel from the Philippines in 2015 that had the “help me plz” note. They also stated that “Need your help” was just a poorly-worded component of the label’s message to the buyer regarding washing the garment, as per SHEIN recommendations.
If this seems to be the case, however, it doesn’t free SHEIN from its obligation to provide its workers with safe working conditions and decent pay.
Ethics and sustainability cannot coexist with the fast fashion industry
The fact that all of these texts were presumably sent by garment factory workers shows just how widespread the problem really is for the whole fashion industry.
Recently, several videos were posted on TikTok that contain misleading and false information about SHEIN. We want to make it very clear that we take supply chain matters seriously. Our strict Code of Conduct prohibits suppliers from using child or forced labor and we do not tolerate non-compliance.
Recently, there has been some confusion about one of our product labels, and here we want to provide an update.
So, how ethical SHEIN is? And is SHEIN exploiting forced labor?
Notwithstanding the claims made by SHEIN in the statement about its supply chains, there is no proof that the firm is transparent about it or that it actually implements the standards set out in its Code of Conduct for Suppliers that are meant to restrict partner manufacturers from exploiting forced and child labour and provide a sustainable living wage for all workers.
Per the company’s website, all of SHEIN’s clothes are created in China, where pressured, underage, and underpaid labour is prevalent and factories are frequently unregulated.
Outsourcing labour to China is how fast fashion firms like SHEIN offers low prices.
“There have been several claims about SHEIN’s labor abuses, implying that the brand is likely to be partnering with manufacturers that are badly abusing, overworking, and underpaying their garment employees,” Kristian Hardiman said, the head of Good On You, an ethical brands rating app that is supported by Emma Watson.
It is evident that this fast fashion giant claims to defend itself while using the ambiguity in the texts discovered by consumers (not all fashion giants are like this though, Hugo Boss and Adidas are doing their homework).
Can a fast fashion brand like SHEIN ever be sustainable or ethical? Probably not
A study by the NGO Public Eye in 2021 indicated that SHEIN’s workers worked up to 75 hours per week that they had just one day off per month, and were paid per item of clothes they produced. All of this is in flagrant violation of labour regulations.
“A lack of visibility of supply chains can allow exploitative, unsafe working conditions, and environmental damage to thrive while obscuring who has the responsibility and power to address these issues,” says Ruth MacGilp, Fashion Revolution’s Communications Manager, pointing out how SHEIN received a zero in last year’s Fashion Transparency Index for supply chain traceability and governance (FTI).
Finally, SHEIN is only one example of the obvious risks that fast-fashion brands may be causing. Yet there are many alternatives to fast fashion and ways to avoid excessive spending on clothes, such as thrifting, purchasing from small eco-friendly fashion brands, and simply repurposing clothes from what you already have.
Because, the more people speak out against fast fashion’s unethical practices, the more likely it is that the industry will change for the better.
But, no worries, if you want to cheer yourself up a bit, you could read our sustainability battle between The North Face and Patagonia! Even though there’s just one winner, they both do much better than SHEIN.
Are there alternatives to SHEIN and fast fashion companies? Ethical fashion and sustainable brands is the answer!
Let’s face the crude reality here.
Even though here and there the forced labor bubble bursts and the harsh reality comes out, people are still buying fast fashion products, over and over.
The fashion industry alone is responsible for the 10% of the TOTAL carbon emissions. This is bad, like really bad.
The only alternatives is for more and more buyers to become conscious, understand that SHEIN cheap prices are made possible by forced labor, and that if we want this to stop we need to start buying clothes from sustainable fashion brands, that respect workers and the environment by applying SDGs, producing eco-friendly and, like Patagonia, don’t drop a new collection everytime your eyes blink.
OK, WE KNOW THIS IS SHAMELESS SELF-ADVERTISING, BUT OUR ECO MARKETPLACE ONLY SELLS SUSTAINABLE, CERTIFIED, FASHION BRANDS.
FIND THE ETHICAL ALTERNATIVE TO SHEIN HERE!
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed here by the authors are their own, not those of Impakter.com — In the Featured Photo: SHEIN. Featured Photo Credit: Shein.com