SHEIN plans to reduce overall emissions across its entire value chain by 25% by 2030. The company also plans to commit up to US$7.6 million in programmatic funding to Apparel Impact Institute, a nonprofit organisation dedicated to decarbonising and modernising the fashion industry supply chain, to build the roadmap for emissions reduction within SHEIN's supply chain.
According to the fast-fashion retailer, its contribution will go directly to two existing Apparel Impact Institute programmes: Carbon Leadership and Clean by Design. The former focuses on carbon benchmarking, assessment and goal-setting while the latter helps textile production facilities reduce energy, water and chemistry use, while reducing cost. Apparel Impact Institute plans to design a strategy focused on implementing energy efficiency projects at over 500 of SHEIN's partner facilities, generating an approximate 10% greenhouse gas emissions reduction per facility per year.
At the same time, SHEIN is also working with Brookfield Renewable Partners, Brookfield's global renewable power and decarbonisation business, to address greenhouse gas emissions in its supply chain through the transition to powering the operations of SHEIN's supply chain partners with renewable energy.
Adam Whinston, global head of ESG at SHEIN, said it is taking "a significant step forward" by announcing a new set of 2030 goals that will help the company accomplish emissions reduction targets for its entire supply chain over the next seven years.
SHEIN launched in 2008 and according to The Wall Street Journal, was valued at US$100 billion in a funding round earlier this year. It previously raised between US$1 billion and US$2 billion. The company reportedly produces about 10,000 new products daily, The Guardian said, and earlier this year, Bloomberg reported that polyester has surpassed cotton as the backbone of textile production. Based on data it collected on more than 15,000 pieces of clothing on SHEIN between 1 to 15 November last year, Bloomberg found that 92.5% of its clothing contains new plastics.
SHEIN's meteoric rise has been fuelled by social media, with consumers posting hauls online. The hashtag #SheinHaul, for example, had 6.9 billion views on TikTok at the time of writing. The company has come under the spotlight in recent times for sustainability issues. NGOs have claimed that SHEIN engages low-paid workers to produce some of its goods, Bloomberg said. These workers also work "excessively long hours and in dangerous workplace conditions". Meanwhile, activists and regulators have also called fast fashion wasteful. In fact, founder of social enterprise Group Eco-Stylist, Garik Himebaugh, called SHEIN a "red flag" to any individual concerned about sustainability, Bloomberg added.
To show that it is bent on sustainability, SHEIN partnered with British assurance provider, Intertek, to measure its 2021 carbon footprint impact, calculate its Scope Three baseline emissions and identify science-based targets through jointly conducted interactive workshops. It found that emissions generated from SHEIN operations were accountable for less than 0.05% of 2021 overall emissions. Based on this, SHEIN plans to reduce absolute emissions by 42% by 2030.
Also, emissions from energy purchased to power SHEIN-owned facilities formed less than 0.5% of overall emissions last year. Moving forward, the fast fashion retailer plans to purchase renewable energy certificates for 100% of the electricity used in its operations by 2030. At the same time, SHEIN and Intertek found that emissions generated from the retailer's entire supply chain accounted for more than 99% of 2021 overall emissions. Hence, it now plans to reduce absolute emissions by 25% by 2030.
As part of its sustainability journey, SHEIN also announced a US$50 million Extended Producer Responsibility Fund earlier this year to keep ancient and endangered forests out of the viscose supply chain and the launch of a purpose-driven clothing label to foster responsible customer choices and behaviours.
(Read also: Coca-Cola's COP27 greenwashing backlash: Can brands win over sceptics?)
ESG impact is among the top two crucial factors that influence decision-making among next-generation leaders, Bloomberg's Next Gen Leaders Study found. Despite SHEIN's efforts to push for sustainability, the brand might still be seen as greenwashing.
To convince sceptics, Bloomberg Media's MD, media sales, APAC, Sunita Rajan previously explained that companies should set clear objectives and have a strong framework to support the execution of their sustainability initiatives.
In fact, she explained that nothing in a company gets done without the right resources on the job. Hence, walking the talk in ESG means making sure a business has the resources, capacity and will to execute its plans. "And finally, share the success - communicating milestones and measures of success will go a long way in ensuring that internal stakeholders remain true to the cause," she added.
At the same time, Winnie Pua, MD, [email protected] told MARKETING-INTERACTIVE previously that only through education can the value of best practices be inculcated and put front and centre of corporations and their employees. She is of the view that both hearts and minds need to be won in this "long battle for ever more effective solutions to save the earth".
Pua added that companies should have long-term partnerships with independent organisations focused on sustainability audit and consultancy. This helps companies quantify sincerity by translating recommendations over time to actions and resulting data.
Companies, in general, should also constantly co-innovate through on-ground innovation with end-consumers as part of R&D to learn their behaviours, preferences, and concerns, and allow consumer insights to directly inform product design, and brand values and policies.
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