Activism, Fashion, Sustainability, Where to shop

Shein vs H&M: The Fast Fashion Brand That’s More Sustainable

is shein worse than h&m

This article was written by The Zillennial Zine’s summer editorial intern Grier Calagione. Find her on Instagram at @g_fac. If you would like to share an article with The Zillennial, send us an email at

The world of fast fashion is a competitive and ever-changing environment. Powerhouses like Shein are producing hundreds of designs, making cheap clothes and selling them at a low price point. In the varying levels of clothing companies, I always considered international brands like Shein and Zaful to be at the bottom of the totem pole. Brands like Forever 21 and H&M have been granted the slightest bit more respect, selling at higher price points. H&M has filed a lawsuit against Shein for copyright infringement.

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The lawsuit includes images of designs that H&M believes Shein stole. Creating so many designs a day, at such a low price, Shein is bound to be stealing designs from other brands. Shein is also being sued by a group of three designers for criminal organization racketeering suit and by fast fashion company Temu for Shein’s exclusivity agreements with Chinese factories and work with influencers.

Shein was most recently valued as a $66 billion brand, these lawsuits are unlikely to have a big effect on the powerhouse. But, is there a lesser of two fast fashion evils? Between H&M and Shein is the only real difference a higher domestic price point of the former? Is Shein worse than H&M or are they equal in their anti-sustainable ways? This article will take a look at both brands through the lens of sustainability.


In Sheins Sustainability and Social Impact Report from 2021, they boast a “fully integrated supply chain.” Claiming that their in-warehouse work refuses inventory, limits waste and lowers costs. However, they give little information on exactly how this helps. The report also cites “protecting the planet,” as one of the company’s three pillars of their impact strategy. They reference monthly meetings to address these pillars, but no concrete actions to follow through.

It’s safe to say that Shein is a sustainability crooked company. They take seemingly no action to counteract their cheap materials and mass-produced fashion.


H&M has a much more detailed sustainability page on its home website. The page has sections for their achievements, innovation and even on their transparency. But, they are still a well-known fast fashion company. They offer a section called “Take Care,” breaking down all the steps you can take to make clothes last longer. 

The brand sells mending patches and cedar rings that match the textures and materials of their clothes so consumers won’t automatically repurchase a piece. Their website has their sustainability efforts right on the main page and clearly lays out what their goals are to become a more sustainable brand.

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H&M is still a very long long way from being considered an environmentally friendly fashion company, but they have Shein beat. The best way to be a sustainable shopper on a low budget is to buy second-hand. Thrifting, estate sales and flea markets are all great places to find quality clothing for cheap. Many fashion fanatics are taking pledges to stop buying from all fast-fashion brands.

However,  clothing hunts do require time and transportation, privileges not all shoppers have the luxury of. If fast fashion is the only outlet accessible to you, make sure the companies you buy from have sustainability goals and efforts in place. 

Have you taken the pledge against fast-fashion? What sustainability values do you look for from brands? Is Shein worse than H&M? Let us know what you think in the comments!

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