The Chinese fashion group Shein has grown rapidly in Europe and the US in recent years, and with it the supply of inexpensive clothing churned out by the fast fashion chain has also grown.
Shein has announced it has now entered into an agreement with The Or Foundation, a US and Ghana-based organisation that works to promote justice and sustainability in the garment industry.
The Chinese fast-fashion giant has decided to set up the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) fund and is partnering with the foundation to do so, said Or co-founder Liz Ricketts at the Global Fashion Summit in Copenhagen on Tuesday.
Over the next five years, Shein will pay 50 million dollars to the EPR fund to support communities suffering from the consequences of textile waste. The ‘Shein Fund’ will also contribute to the implementation of environmental and social sustainability strategies that focus on clothing that enters the global second-hand market and often ends up as waste, according to a joint statement made on Wednesday.
Shein fights back against bad image
Recently, the secretive group has come under increasing criticism for possible plagiarism and questions have been raised as to how sustainable the company is. Shein is working against the image with initiatives such as the fund and a new sustainable line.
“Shein has set an ambitious goal and we are thrilled to partner with The Or Foundation, the first recipient of the groundbreaking Shein Fund, for the next step in our journey,” said Adam Whinston, global head of ESG at Shein. “Managing second-hand waste is an important part of the fashion ecosystem that is often overlooked. We have an opportunity to make a difference in this area and we look forward to working with The Or Foundation on this first of its kind project.”
With the concept of extended producer responsibility, companies support the process that the product goes through when the customer has sorted it out – i.e. further processing or disposal – in financial or physical form.
15 million garments per week
Ghana was the world’s largest importer of second-hand clothing in 2020, with a combined value of 182 million dollars, according to Ricketts. 15 million pieces of clothing per week end up in the Kantamanto market – the market in Accra is the largest site for resale by residents. 40 percent of these pieces, which are mainly shipped from the US and Europe, are not used and are disposed of. This puts a strain on the local communities.
“Until we align EPRs with reality, we need brands that care and support communities like Kantamanto. There is one brand that has decided to do that,” Ricketts noted at the Copenhagen conference.
The Or will receive five million dollars from the Shein Fund for each of the next three years and will use it to expand an educational programme for young women who carry bales of second-hand clothing on their heads and suffer from the heavy burden. It also aims to establish community businesses that turn textile waste into new products, pilot fibre recycling projects with Ghanaian textile manufacturers and make the Kantamanto market a safe and dignified place to work.
This article originally appeared on FashionUnited.DE. Translation and edit by: Rachel Douglass.