ESG is not a Marketing Strategy
Updated: Oct 8, 2022
According to sources, Chinese fast-fashion giant Shein is attempting to make apologies by changing its image in order to justify a progressively declining $100 billion valuation before an audacious IPO in 2024. It has a lot of work ahead of it. While the corporation controls the majority of the category at 28 percent and is expected to generate $15.7 billion in sales by 2021, it is also among the poorest in terms of environmental sustainability, social governance, and governance (ESG). It relies on suppliers in China, where the Uyghur communities face forced labor and hazardous labor conditions, to keep costs down and remain relatively unregulated. Furthermore, because inefficient environmental practices are established in the fast fashion paradigm, most authorities feel it is irreversible. Shein has a lot to be held accountable for as the king of quick fashion.
Is the firm’s recruitment of new sustainability-focused management and pledging a more conscientious approach enough? Evidently not.
ESG is not a sales tactic, and should not be used as one. Businesses, including fast fashion, frequently misinterpret ESG. Consequently, ESG is criticized as "corporate cancel culture." Other firms, like Shein, aim to benefit from ESG by engaging in ESG-related marketing without understanding how that is fundamentally contradictory to ESG's purpose.
Impactful ESG requires fast fashion businesses to reconsider the way their entire business is structured, from production and retail prices to staff and distribution networks, to achieve the goal of a more environmentally sustainable planet. ESG aims to combat the notion of disposable clothing. Most businesses find this concept terrifying, especially if they are doing it for branding purposes.
As a result, ESG branding without real changes in the way Shein functions is not an effective strategy. Even firms with the greatest volitions, those that apprehend and are motivated to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, find it tricky to fulfill the requirements required to cause change while maintaining profits. In any case, studies show that the American customer is not quick to believe stories without seeing actual change.
Transparency can be utilized as a real strategy. While fast fashion may not be able to truly incorporate ESG practices, other fashion leaders in the industry may be able to with the right intentions. It is integral to be able to find partners, through an ESG agency, to help guide one through the process.
The proper partner may be able to convince fashion businesses to open source their ESG triumphs. Multinational garment firms are still mostly traditional and view their ESG innovations and achievements as a competitive advantage. Therefore, they would not their competitors to mimic their organic technology for cleaning toxins out of water used in textile manufacturing. On a larger level, they fail to realize that this could have long-lasting environmental benefits and create a powerful story about their company.
While it is hard for fast fashion to be or even pretend to be ecologically friendly or sustainable other fashion brands may be able to help in contributing to the industry transition to ESG required to do good.