The ultimate case of greenwashing in
the fashion industry: SHEIN
16.11.2022Alberto Bailin, Co-founder of LienzoPhoto conceptualized with Dall E
Greenwashing is defined as the practice of falsifying or overstating the green credentials of a product, service or brand. In other words, greenwashing is using environmental language to boost sales while simultaneously destroying the environment (1). We recommend keeping this definition in mind for the rest of the case study. In the next paragraphs we are going to focus on Shein, a brand that is known by everyone nowadays due to its unbeatable prices and its great variety of products…
When we enter Shein’s website we can read some statements such as “sustainable practices”, “we do things small”, “material with little impact on the environment”, “decent salary”, “factories conform to safety standards”. How can a company which launches between 700 and 1000 new references per day (2) be stating things such as we do things with little impact on the environment? Unbelievable but, sadly, true.
Thankfully enough, there are organizations that are developing indicators to measure sustainability of certain companies. This is the case of Fashion Revolution or Good on You, which have developed some tools called transparency indexes. The Fashion Transparency Index analyses and ranks 250 of the world’s biggest fashion brands and retailers based on their public disclosure of human rights and environmental policies, practices and impacts, in their operations and in their supply chains. Shein’s score is 0 of 20. Similarly to Fashion Revolution, Good on you reports that Shein is as opaque as a brand can get and thus gets the lowest score of their “We Avoid” for the planet intiative, since there is no evidence that Shein is taking any meaningful action to reduce the impact it has on the environment.
From hazardous chemicals, to carbon emissions, to microplastics, Shein is checking all the boxes of things you should be avoiding or at least making an effort to have a positive impact on the environment. On top of that, its mass-producing system resulting in such cheap, poorly-made clothing perpetuates a throwaway fashion culture simply by existing.
(1) Definition of greenwashing used by greenwash.com
(2) For every reference, Shein produces between 50-100 pieces and based on its popularity it is then produced on a mass scale.