New Report Finds Shein Emits More Pollution Than the Country of Paraguay

<p>Photo: Presley Ann/Getty Images</p>

Photo: Presley Ann/Getty Images

Shein isn't escaping the greenwashing allegations anytime soon: In its 2024 Clean Energy Close Up report, environmental advocacy group Stand.earth found that the fast-fashion retailer increased its absolute carbon emissions by nearly 50% over the course of a year — despite announcing plans to reduce emissions. The report comes amid Shein's recent PR efforts to rehabilitate its image as the retailer endeavors to go public in the United States.

Stand.earth analyzed what (if any) progress global fashion brands have made towards their stated efforts to reduce emissions, building on the Fossil Free Fashion Scorecard it released last year. It's been tracking 11 companies: H&M Group, Puma, Nike, Levi Strauss and Co., Adidas, Gap, VF Corp, Inditex (which owns Zara), Lululemon, Fast Retailing (which owns Uniqlo) and Shein. Their latest scores are based on climate commitments, energy performance, transparency and active advocacy to increase renewables at the manufacturing levels. Their performance is measured against the runway to an equitable fossil fuel phase-out by 2030, drawing on data shared publicly by manufacturers in their supply chains.

The results, released Tuesday, suggest that none of these brands are on track to completely eliminate fossil fuels in the next six years. Shein sits at the bottom of the list with a score of 2.5/100. Stand.earth found that, in one year, its carbon emissions rose by nearly 50%, surpassing those of the entire country of Paraguay.

<a href="https://stand.earth/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Stand.Earth;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">Stand.Earth</a> Clean Energy Close-Up Scorecard<p>Graphic: Courtesy of Stand.earth</p>
Stand.Earth Clean Energy Close-Up Scorecard

Graphic: Courtesy of Stand.earth

This directly contradicts Shein's claims that it has been working to reduce — and ultimately eliminate — carbon emissions across its supply chain. Over the past year, the brand has boasted of sustainability-related efforts including a partnership with circular economy technology company Queen of Raw as a means to source deadstock fabric, and a $15 million investment in upgrading its factories to meet worker regulations. (According to a recent Public Eye report, contract manufacturers and third-party suppliers for Shein were still found working 12-hour days excluding lunch and dinner breaks.)

While Shein may be the worst offender, it's not the only fashion company failing to make progress. Lululemon, Inditex (owner of Zara) and VF Corp (owner of Vans, Supreme, Dickies and The North Face) also saw double-digit percentage increases in their annual carbon emissions. (Lululemon is currently under investigation due to a greenwashing complaint filed by Stand.earth.)

Of the 11 brands analyzed, only H&M Group and Puma scored higher than 50/100. The former scored the highest at 59, largely due to its high financial investment in supplier engagement for decarbonization initiatives. But it's Puma that takes the title for best energy data transparency (though its stats don't include how it's sourcing its renewable energy). Stand.earth concluded that only three brands — H&M, Puma and Levi Strauss — are forecasted to be able to reduce manufacturing emissions by at least 55% by 2030, as compared to 2018 levels. It also found that every brand fell short when it came to unveiling their full production volume in tons and displaying evidence of developing policies for sustainable, long-term energy transitions.

"Simply put, most brands are not yet on track to decarbonize and many are heading in the wrong direction, and no matter the price printed on the tag, people and the planet are left to pay the true costs," Rachel Kitchin, Senior Corporate Climate Campaigner at Stand.earth, said, in a statement. "These big players in the fashion industry must show leadership by rapidly phasing out fossil fuels and investing in tangible, renewable energy solutions."

The report does highlight a pathway to an effective fossil fuel phase-out: Transparent, time-marked roadmaps; full breakdowns of power purchase investments; disclosed supply chain data and supplier lists; fair financing for manufacturers to engage in energy transition; collaboration with civil society organizations on impactful solutions and promoting renewable energy sources like direct Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) and on-site renewables.

"Right now, manufacturers are acting as 'the fall guy' for fashion's climate pollution, while the brands pocket the profits from a safe distance," Kitchin continued. "Brands need to pay for the changes they demand by financing the renewable energy transition in their supply chains, and be more transparent about who their suppliers are and where they are located."

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