How Ethical Is the Fast Fashion Brand?

Let’s be real—fast fashion brands are running the market right now. Fast fashion is accessible, quick, and cheap, so what’s not to love? Unfortunately, if a $5 dress sounds a little too good to be true… it probably is.

The biggest brands, including Shein and Princess Polly, often operate under harmful conditions in order to get clothing to consumers with the signature price and efficiency they’re known for. Their conduct can deeply harm both people and the environment. But is Boohoo just as bad for the planet?

Boohoo’s Rise to Fast Fashion Fame

Photo: Boohoo

Established in the UK in 2006, Boohoo is a fast fashion brand that has only sourced to new heights of production in the past couple of years.

The brand’s prices sit around the midrange, with one garment tending to cost between $20 and $90. Its sizes range from 2 to 28, but most garments only feature around seven of these sizes each. It makes clothing for many different occasions—anywhere from formal, to casual, to a night out.

Boohoo has been in the news recently due to its current collaboration with actress Megan Fox, who has partnered with Boohoo to release a full line of clothing. Placed front and center on its website, the collection is presented to shoppers with glittering, chic, and trendy California-girl looks. But when it comes to Boohoo, not all that glitters is gold.

We previously ranked Boohoo in a list evaluating several top fast fashion brands on their sustainability and ethicality, where it received third place and an unimpressive 10/25 score. Let’s dive into what left us underwhelmed on the sustainability front.

Boohoo’s Sustainability Plan

boohoo sustainability
Photo: Boohoo

Boohoo’s sustainability plan, aptly named UP.FRONT, is located both on its main website and on a separate website for its shareholders, both disclosing similar content simply framed in a different way.

Many companies in fashion and beauty don’t have a dedicated section this in-depth detailing their sustainability goals, so that’s a good start for the brand. But it’s what’s within those details that matter, and Boohoo has three main components of its plan: clothes, suppliers, and business operations.

Clothing

Let’s start with clothing. By 2025, Boohoo states that all cotton and polyester and half of their synthetic cellulosics will be more sustainably sourced. It will not stop utilizing leather, down, feathers, and wool, but it claims those materials will be “sourced in line with industry best practice.”

Because factory farming industries are large drivers of our changing climate, and comparable products are already on the market to replace them, we had hoped to see Boohoo taking advantage of some of these sustainable alternatives. Many competing brands have already discontinued the use of these materials.

Boohoo says by 2030, “all the materials we use will be more sustainably sourced.” However, the path to making that happen isn’t expressed in any quantifiable way. Even so, it has added a list of materials it wants to slowly switch over to, including using more recycled fibers and organic cotton.

Lastly, Boohoo has partnered with the reGAIN app to help consumers exchange used items for coupons so they can be recycled. It also says textile waste is a “big focus” and it will be “looking at our resale and recycling offers to extend the life of our products and make sure that they don’t end up in landfill.”

Suppliers

Boohoo had two 2021 deliverables around transparency: disclosing its supplier and factory list and publishing its purchasing practice. By 2023, Boohoo hopes to map its raw materials supply chain for key fibers, and by 2025, it plans on publishing key raw material supply chain information.

More transparency is needed from fast fashion brands, and sharing some of this information is a step in the right direction. But there are many problems less unaddressed here.

Boohoo has had controversy with its suppliers in Leicester, UK, allegedly refusing to pay their workers even minimum wage as recently as 2021. Per Sky News, a staff member revealed that the supplier was paying her minimum wage so it was on her paystub, then was forcing her to repay much of her check to them in a shady scheme.

In addition, Forbes states that in 2017, workers in a Boohoo factory were allegedly given “strikes” for smiling or checking their phones. There have also been slavery claims surrounding Boohoo.

Business

Lastly, Boohoo’s business conduct section details a goal—but no solid plan—to cut emissions in half by 2030, engage in more philanthropy, and support local communities.

The issue is mass production will never be sustainable. And when you’re one of the fastest-growing ultra-fast-fashion retailers in the world, it’s nearly impossible to make a difference for the planet unless you slow down—something Boohoo doesn’t plan on doing anytime soon.

Additional Concerns

boohoo sustainability
Photo: Boohoo

Boohoo’s catering to microtrends is nothing to dismiss. Trend cycles used to be seasonal, but brands like Boohoo have made it so that the new trends never stop rolling in every day of the year.

In fact, VICE UK found that in 2020, Boohoo was uploading as many as 772 new garments a week, which equates to 116 garments a day. Fashion brands used to put out seasonal collections with 60 to 130 pieces.

As previously mentioned, it’s nearly impossible to be sustainable at the level of output Boohoo is producing under its current business model.

Conclusion: Is Boohoo Sustainable?

Photo: Boohoo

Boohoo is currently nowhere near being a sustainable brand. Although it possesses an outward sustainability plan, it lacks the details and innovation to offset the harm being done by its rapid clothing creation—especially given the long timeframe it has set of reaching goals by 2030.

Boohoo stating it plans to source items more sustainably isn’t enough. We need more definitive action from an industry that’s continuously and knowingly causing so much harm. There are countless other brands and methods of purchasing clothing that would be better for the environment than shopping with Boohoo.

Not Sure How to Give Up Fast Fashion? Here Are 3 Tips

1. Buy Less at a Higher Quality

Higher quality garments made with durable fabrics that likely won’t tear or crease nearly as much as a piece coming from a fast fashion retailer, meaning more longevity and intention in the use of materials, packaging, and shipping processes before it arrives at your doorstep.

At Brightly, we certainly understand that buying more expensive pieces upfront isn’t always an option, but you can apply these tips in different applications in the best way they fit into your life. This tip can absolutely be applied to secondhand, thrifted clothing as well.

2. Tone Down on Trend-Hopping

Don’t worry, sustainability doesn’t have to mean boring basics or sticking to one style! There are plenty of ways to curate a sustainable wardrobe that’s colorful and fashionable.

While some trends are one-and-done, others tend to come back pretty frequently in a cycle. Tap into those reoccurring trends and stock your closet with some of your favorites so you can mix and match pieces and get as much re-wearability as possible.

And if you do get the urge to participate in less frequent trends and only plan on wearing a piece once, consider rental services. Renting clothing is a great way to experiment with your style without using all the resources that went into making a piece for a one-time wear.

3. Avoid Impulse-Buying

It’s very rare that a purchase made on impulse tends to pay off. These are the items that we’re most likely to wear the least and regret.

Depending on the item, try and see what it feels like to sit on a purchase for a day, a week, or even a month to ensure it’s something you’ll really be glad you got. If you feel an absence without it and recall it often, it’s likely a purchase you’ll get great use out of.

For clothing, this technique will help you create a closet where you love every item, which in turn makes it a lot easier to mix and match.


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