Fast fashion can be addictive. Trends change rapidly, and brands must keep up or risk falling out of favour and custom. Boohoo is a culprit of this internet-to-door approach to fashion, but manages to undercut its competitors in terms of price, and the time that it takes a garment to go from Instagram to your wardrobe. The company’s ability to make pre-tax profits of £92.2m by selling bodycon dresses for £5.00 suggests that they are making severe shortcuts in production.
On the surface, it may appear that Boohoo is trying to make amends for the damage fast fashion is doing to the world. Its website links to SCAP 2020 (Sustainable Clothing Action Plan) and the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, TMC (The Microfibre Consortium) and Avieco; suggesting that it is part of these initiatives. The page also makes claims of having ‘clear policies’ on ‘modern slavery’ and ‘ethical supplier conduct’. However, Boohoo fails to detail what steps it is taking as a result of being a member of these groups, and also fails to explain what these policies are, nor how it will make ‘a positive social impact’ throughout its supply chain.
Dangerous working conditions
Hiding behind that cheap price tag is a severe human and environmental cost. Earlier this summer, Boohoo lost more than £500m of its share value after the dangerous realities of its garment factories were exposed. Despite the ongoing pandemic, workers were forced to continue making clothes in unsafe conditions. They were unable to socially distance, left without access to hand sanitiser or soap, and had to work amongst rats and mice. People worked overnight, but their shifts were logged as part-time hours; meaning it appeared that legal wages were being paid, but were in fact being paid much less. Boohoo also owns Pretty Little Thing, Nasty Gal and Coast, as well as Karen Millen, Oasis and Warehouse: meaning that these practices dominate a great proportion of the fashion output of the UK.
Impact on the planet
As well as having exploitative working practices, the textile industry is a notorious pollutant. It creates 1.2bn tonnes of CO2 a year, is responsible for vast amounts of chemical and plastic pollution, and clothes make up 1.3m tonnes of waste. Browsing through Boohoo’s products, there is very little information given about the materials that their clothes are made from. Many products have no material description at all. However, given that a t-shirt , a pair of shorts , and a dress  are all made from 95% viscose and 5% elastane, it seems that Boohoo’s products are heavily synthetic. It is estimated that 35% of microfibres in the ocean come from synthetic clothing.
The distribution of fast fashion is another factor that must be taken into consideration when evaluating its impact on the environment. Boohoo offers next day delivery on orders received before 11pm Sunday to Friday, and before 9:30pm on Saturdays. This speedy shipping time is a bonus for the buyer, but with Amazon emitting 44.4m metric tonnes of CO2 in 2018, it is clear that online shopping has a phenomenal impact on the world. How the clothes are packaged deepens fast fashion’s environmental impact, with most goods arriving in plastic wraps, and ‘nearly a third a solid waste in the US com[ing] from e-commerce packaging’.
How to break a fast-fashion habit
It is clear that fast fashion is unsustainable and destructive, but what are the alternatives? Wear clothes more times to reduce their emissions impact. Buy clothes made from natural fabrics rather than synthetic fibres. Shop from labels with clear ethical values and worker-focused practices. Look for second-hand pieces rather than buying first-hand. Only buy clothes when needing to replace worn-out goods. Being fashionable without destroying the world is possible, it just requires shopping smartly and sparingly, and in-person where possible.
 Simon Austin, ‘Boohoo revenue surges 44% to £1.2bn’. URL: https://www.prolificnorth.co.uk/news/other-media-news/2020/04/boohoo-revenue-surges-44-ps12bn
 Unknown author, ‘Sustainability’. URL: https://www.boohooplc.com/sustainability
 Sarah Butler, ‘Boohoo shares drop 18% as new Leicester factory reports threaten sales’. URL: https://www.theguardian.com/business/2020/jul/13/boohoo-shares-drop-18-as-new-leicester-factory-reports-threaten-sales
 Archie Bland, ‘Leicester factory put lives at risk during lockdown, claims garment worker’. URL: theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/jul/11/leicester-factory-put-lives-at-risk-during-coronavirus-lockdown-claims-garment-worker
 Unknown author, ‘Investors are selling Boohoo shares now. They could have intervened far earlier’. URL: https://www.theguardian.com/business/2020/jul/12/boohoo-investors-selling-shares-now-could-have-intervened-much-earlier
 Sandra Laville, ‘The story of a £4 Boohoo dress: cheap clothes at a high cost’. URL: https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/jun/22/cost-cheap-fast-fashion-workers-planet
 ‘Leopard Print Ringer T-Shirt’. URL: https://www.boohoo.com/leopard-print-ringer-tshirt/DZZ04467.html
 ‘Basic Jersey Flippy Shorts’. URL: https://www.boohoo.com/basic-jersey-flippy-shorts/FZZ88490.html?color=194
 ‘The Tie-Die Shoulder Pad Slogan Dress’. URL: https://www.boohoo.com/the-tie-dye-shoulder-pad-slogan-dress/FZZ52990.html?color=209
 Unknown author, ‘Delivery details’. URL: https://www.boohoo.com/page/delivery-details.html
 Joseph Pisani and Bani Sapra, ‘‘Middle of the herd’ no more: Amazon tackles climate change’. URL: https://abcnews.go.com/Technology/wireStory/middle-herd-amazon-tackles-climate-change-65729200
 Emine Saner, ‘Delivery disaster: the hidden environmental cost of your online shopping’. URL: https://www.theguardian.com/news/shortcuts/2020/feb/17/hidden-costs-of-online-delivery-environment