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Shein, aware it needs to reduce its environmental impact but with a focus on the consumer

By Alicia Reyes Sarmiento


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Retail |World Retail Congress

Archive image: The exterior of the Shein pop-up store in Osaka.

The popular Chinese multinational Shein, a pure digital player that has revolutionised the world of fast fashion, making it even more fast-paced, convinced consumers with a website that is updated daily with new garments at very low prices, as opposed to the two weeks that other companies such as Inditex need to bring new items to their shops at a somewhat higher price point.

But all that glitters is not gold, and the key to its success has also meant that it has been the focus of criticism on many occasions, accused of developing a model of consumption that is unsustainable and harmful to the planet.

Donald Tang, Executive Vice President of Shein participated in the conference dedicated to retail organised as part of the World Retail Congress 2023 where FashionUnited had the opportunity to exchange a few words with him.

"We are aware that we still have a long way to go in terms of sustainability, but we are taking it one step at a time. We have great potential in this regard because unlike other brands, we are a key player in the supply chain and that means we have a lot of influence", he said.

An interesting statement considering that less than a week ago the company announced major changes to its global supply chain with a focus on Brazil after investing 135 million in shaping a new production network.

"A few months ago we conducted a questionnaire with our customers to find out what happened to our clothes after they had been sold. We found out interesting facts such as that 75 percent said that on average, they wear their Shein clothes 10 times. That's not a lot, but what's interesting is that 50 percent end up donating them to charity outlets or sharing them with their friends", which shows that the majority of consumers are getting used to giving clothes they no longer wear a second chance. An advance in sustainability that does not necessarily correspond or relate to the company's efforts in this area.

"We are recognised in the market for our competitive prices, but one of our short-term objectives is to look more at the consumer," he said during a conversation with FashionUnited, in which he did not offer any further details.

The company had already announced a 15 million dollar investment through the Supplier Community Empowerment Programme (Scep), to which it is now adding another 55 million dollars (for a total of 70 million dollars). These "will be dedicated to the research and development of innovative lean production solutions for apparel manufacturing, such as the use of automated guided vehicles to promote automation and efficiency throughout the production process".

Speaking about his suppliers, with whom he says he has a "close" relationship, he emphasises their motivation in response to the company's digitalisation developments.

This article was originally published on FashionUnited.ES and has been translated and edited into English by Veerle Versteeg.

The interview in this article was conducted in person by Paula V. Pinagua during the World Retail Congress 2023.

World Retail Congress