US: SHEIN wants to focus on sustainability - Will customers pay more for planet-friendly products?
May 9th, 2023, Lesley Simeon

US: SHEIN wants to focus on sustainability - Will customers pay more for planet-friendly products?

Fast fashion retailer SHEIN’s executive vice chairman Donald Tang recently spoke of the brand’s sustainability ambitions. Speaking at the Word Retail Congress, Tang said, “In the next phase of growth we need to think everything we do with ESG (environmental, social, and governance) in mind...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.”

SHEIN has often come under fire for promoting a "model of consumption" that can be environmentally unsustainable and harmful. But as the brand reiterates its commitment to pivot towards sustainability (in 2022 it announced plans to reduce GHG emissions by 25%), we look at what its current customers have to say about fast fashion.

According to YouGov Profiles - which covers demographic, psychographic, attitudinal and behavioral consumer metrics - 45% of the retailer’s customers agree with the statement that “people who buy fast fashion don’t care about the environment.” The general US population is less likely to agree with the statement (37%).

Earlier in April 2022, SHEIN launched ‘evoluSHEIN’ - a collection that uses recycled polyester and aims at reducing waste in the manufacturing process. Later, in October 2022, the retailer introduced its circular fashion platform, ‘SHEIN Exchange’ (following the release of a documentary that shed light on the brand’s questionable working conditions in its factories) where consumers can buy and sell previously owned items.

At the World Retail Congress, Tang remarked that ‘evoluSHEIN’ offers customers the choice to pick sustainably manufactured items, but at a premium. “Consumers these days are no longer looking just at price,” he added.

Profiles data shows that 64% of SHEIN’s customers agree with the statement that they “don’t mind paying more for products that are good for the environment” and are more likely to say so than the general US population (57%).

Similarly, SHEIN’s customers are also more likely than the general US population to agree with the statement that “big companies are trying to improve their impact on the environment” (58% vs. 45%).

But while a significant proportion of SHEIN’s customers wouldn’t mind paying more for environmentally friendly products, more than half (59%) of them consider price when it comes to factors that influence their decision to choose a brand to purchase clothes from. Another 54% of them consider value for money and 11% of them consider sustainable clothing and production practices when choosing a place to buy clothes from.

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Methodology: YouGov Profiles is based on continuously collected data and rolling surveys, rather than from a single limited questionnaire. Profiles data for the US is nationally representative and weighted by age, gender, education, region, and race. Learn more about Profiles.

Photo by Pawel Czerwinski on Unsplash