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Keeping you in-the-know on environmental, social and governance developments

Ken Pucker is always one to take on issues directly and fearlessly. I tip my hat to him for a recent LinkedIn post with a safe-for-work video from SNL – a satirical commercial for make believe fast fashion company XIEMU (or, a mashup on Temu and SHEIN). Honestly, there isn’t much you can add here – it says about everything there is to say. 

Ken brings home the points about why this parody is so painfully accurate:

  • The separation of production (far way) [sic] from consumption and disposal (out of sight) makes excess consumption “easy”… the average American spends 2.5% of income on fashion, buys 70 items …2% of which are made in the United States.
  • Why? Lower wages (the minimum wage in Bangladesh is now $113/month) and regulatory arbitrage. Said differently, social and environmental laws are typically less strict.
  • Surveys would indicate that this would not work for Gen Z and Millennials given increasing concern about social welfare and environmental stress. A new Deloitte survey claims that 2/3 of Gen Z and Millennials will pay more for sustainable products. Really? Surveys assume all things are equal. They are not. There is a chasm between intention and action and price, brand, fit, and style almost always carry more weight than “sustainability”
  • Why? For one, because consumers cannot tell which green, organic, eco and sustainability fashion claims are real or made up. Is organic cotton really organic? Is BCI [Better Cotton Initiative] cotton really certified? Is the HIGG MSI [Materials Sustainability Index] based on up to date LCAs [life cycle assessments] and geographically accurate? Oh, and who has the time or expertise to read and understand an LCA?

When will consumers honestly care en masse about ESG product attributes? When there is alignment between those ESG attributes and cost, price buyers are willing to pay and other key buying criteria. As long as there is meaningful misalignment across those four elements, ESG will most likely continue to lose. I’ll be blogging on this concept more in the near future and what companies can do to reduce the gaps.

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The Editor

Lawrence Heim has been practicing in the field of ESG management for almost 40 years. He began his career as a legal assistant in the Environmental Practice of Vinson & Elkins working for a partner who is nationally recognized and an adjunct professor of environmental law at the University of Texas Law School. He moved into technical environmental consulting with ENSR Consulting & Engineering at the height of environmental regulatory development, working across a range of disciplines. He was one… View Profile