Did Shein Try To Greenwash Its Business During The Global Fashion Summit?
Can $50 million solve Shein's sustainability problem?
Returning from its 2020 hiatus, the annual Global Fashion Summit had the fashion industry’s preeminent leaders in sustainability convene in Copenhagen this week. As discourse coming out of the summit highlighted the environmental destruction and social inequities caused by the fashion industry, Shein announced the launch of a $50 million USD fund to combat waste and offset the company’s impact.
In 2021 it was reported that Shein generated $16 billion USD in revenue. Hence, a $50 million commitment over five years from Shein raised many questions about how a company that produces 6,000 SKUs each day can truly offset its impact using less than 1 percent of its annual revenue. These figures drew accusations of greenwashing — the business strategy of spending time and money marketing a company and its products as environmentally friendly rather than actually minimizing its environmental impact.
Audible gasps could be heard from the audience as co-founder Liz Ricketts announced Shein’s partnerships with The Or Foundation, a charity benefiting the Kantamanto market in Accra, Ghana, one of the world’s largest secondhand markets where 15 million pieces of discarded clothes are plunked down each week. While many of the pieces can be repaired, upcycled, and sold, 40 percent of everything that comes through the market is just waste.
Shein’s money will be used to support an apprenticeship program to move women out of hazardous Kayayei work, help businesses upcycle waste, and pilot fiber-to-fiber recycling programs with Ghanaian manufacturers. The Or Foundation will also help Shein identify additional grant recipients.