Boohoo has grown astronomically since launching in 2006 – but how sustainable are they and do they use ethical practises?
Its founders Mahmud Kamani and Carol Kane made profit of £7.8million in 2022 with the brand, while Boohoo boasts an incredible 11.6million followers on Instagram at the time of writing in December 2020.
Everyone from Emily Ratajkowski to Sofia Richie have been spotted in their clothes, while the brand has harnessed the power of influencers to boost their profile over the past decade – with incredible results.
Most recently, Megan Fox teamed up with the retail giant on a second collection designed by the actress.
Let’s look a little closer at the brand’s practises behind the scenes.
Is Boohoo ethical?
Since Boohoo took over the brands Burton, Dorothy Perkins and Debenhams in 2021, the brand’s ethical ratings have dropped by over half.
Under Ethical Consumer’s ratings, Boohoo scores the worst for:
- Worst Ethical Consumer rating for Environmental Reporting
- Worst Ethical Consumer rating for palm oil sourcing
- Worst Ethical Consumer rating for cotton sourcing
- Worst Ethical Consumer rating for toxic chemicals
- Worst Ethical Consumer rating for Supply Chain Management
- Worst Ethical Consumer rating for animal testing policy
- Worst Ethical Consumer rating for likely tax avoidance.
Similarly to PLT, who came under fire for selling clothes for 4p during November 2020’s Black Friday sale, they too have been caught out for their unethical practises when it comes to garment workers.
As the brands operate under the same fast-fashion business model, it’s unsurprising that they were also called out for selling one particularly popular £5 dress.
You’d be forgiven for assuming that Boohoo pay workers in garment producing countries with low wages, such as Cambodia or India, but 75%–80% of their clothing is produced in Leicester.
Unfortunately in July 2020, Boohoo was accused of modern slavery. An investigation by The Sunday Times discovered that the company were paying their garment workers an hourly wage of £3.50 at a factory in Leicester, despite the minimum wage of £8.72 for those over 25.
While the COVID-19 pandemic was spreading all over the world at the time, workers’ rights group Labour Behind the Label found that staff were also being ‘forced to come into work while sick’ with the virus, while there was no protection for those in the factory in terms of PPE and hand sanitiser. Unsurprisingly, this was later linked to an increase in cases in the city.
As workers were subjected to this disappointing treatment, the brand saw an increase in sales of 44%. Despite the awful treatment of their garment workers during the pandemic, they donated thousands of ‘basic items of clothing’ to medical staff in the UK.
Good On You report that some of Boohoo’s supply chain is certified by Sedex Members Ethical Trade Audit – SMETA Best Practice Guidance in the final stage of production, but they scored just 0-10% in the Fashion Transparency Index.
On their website, they claim to be planning to be more transparent about where their garments are made – but nothing has been done yet.
Read Boohoo’s pledge here.
The brand also don’t disclose any information about the practises they put in place to ensure gender equality and regarding forced labour and freedom of association, they fail to disclose any policies they have in place to protect suppliers and garment workers in their supply chain from COVID-19 and the financial impact it may have, and there’s no evidence they ensure a living wage to employees in their supply chain.
Is Boohoo sustainable?
In 2018, Boohoo was named one of the least sustainable fashion brands in the UK in a report published by the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) alongside Missguided.
Some of the better practises Boohoo has in place include reGAIN, an app which enables shoppers to send the brand old garments in exchange for a discount. They also donate faulty garments to reGAIN.
The brand donates over 100,000 clothing samples to local charities every year, they offer paperless returns and their postage bags are made from recycled materials and are recyclable.
However, they don’t use eco-friendly materials, nor have they made much effort to reduce the use of hazardous chemicals or water in their supply chain.
While they do report greenhouse gas emissions from their direct operation, they don’t bother when it comes to their supply chain.
Read their sustainability pledge here.
Boohoo’s Greenwashing Controversy
Boohoo found itself in hot waters after announcing a “sustainability and style” collaboration with Kourtney Kardashian-Barker in September. The brand claims the collection will include garments made from “recycled fibres.
The collab faced heavy criticism, and many people on social media pointed out that the partnership feels like a failed attempt for Boohoo to seem environmentally friendly.
READ MORE: Is ASOS ethical and sustainable?
Boohoo animal welfare policy
Similarly to its sister brands, Boohoo makes no mention of an Animal Welfare Policy on its website, thus suggesting they don’t try to minimise animal suffering.
They don’t use fur, angora or exotic animal skin and hair, but like most brands, they continue to use leather and wool. Boohoo also fail to trace any animal product to the first range of production.
Wear Next Opinion
Wear Next believe it’s important to highlight the negative and unjust practises taking place in the fashion industry. We believe ethics and sustainability are an important talking point to bring about change and we encourage you to contact fashion brands to demand this.
However we understand that sustainable fashion isn’t accessible for every body due to various factors, such as budget and the ability to find confidence-boosting clothes that fit, and will continue to offer you fashion inspiration and guidance to suit every body and budget.
Fast Fashion Alternatives
Boohoo’s appeal is that they offer affordable and on-trend styles. But if you want to shop for stylish clothes without guilt, many alternatives offer unique, eco-friendly, and creative collections.
Brands like E.L.V Denim, House of Sunny, Girlfriend Collective, and People Tree are some of our favourite sustainable fashion brands.
You can also opt for vintage shopping. Compared to fast fashion, it’s a lot more sustainable and prolongs the life of beautiful pre-loved clothes. You can check out our list of online vintage stores here.