Green Ladies is the first environmentally-focused social enterprise in Hong Kong that adopted a consignment model to collect and resell high quality, second-hand women’s wear and fashion accessories. Established in 2008, it aims to achieve environmental and social impact by encouraging sustainable consumption and providing employment opportunities for middle-aged, underprivileged women.
The fashion industry is one of the most polluting industries in the world, with over 79 trillion litres of water (GFA & BCG 2017) and 25% of worldwide chemical use attributed to it (Greenpeace 2011). The phenomena of fast fashion, characterised by the take-make-dispose model, is also highly wasteful. According to data in 2014, over 200 tonnes of textiles were being discarded into landfills in Hong Kong every day. Despite an emerging consensus on recycling and reusing, the practice of purchasing and wearing second-hand clothes is still not universally accepted. A major challenge is to transform the shopping experience to minimise environmental impact, by encouraging sustainable consumption and leveraging the opportunities of the sharing economy.
Established by St James Settlement, Green Ladies collects and resells second-hand high quality women’s wear and fashion accessories at their physical stores and pop-up stalls, with an aim to achieve environmental and social change. Sales profits go towards training underemployed, middle-aged women to fill job vacancies in the operations of the social eco-enterprise. Green Ladies hopes to transform how people view second-hand clothes, and, as such, focuses on collecting seasonal and trendy (within three years) clothing and accessories in good condition. It undertakes a consignment model to incentivise people to contribute their fashion items, for which they can opt to receive a 30% rebate of the selling price, or pass on the full amount to the enterprise to support it. Green Ladies also holds periodic collection drives, such as at different residential estates across Hong Kong, to encourage donation and consignment from residents. Following the success of the innovative idea, the enterprise launched in 2016 a sister brand, Green Little, which accepts consignments of high quality, second-hand kids wear.
Green Ladies now operates three physical branches in Wanchai, Sai Ying Pun and Tsuen Wan, with Green Little established at two of these locations as well. The enterprise has been successful in offering an alternative fashion choice that is more environmentally friendly. There has been over 17,000 individuals who have consigned items at Green Ladies and Green Little since they launched the consignment model in 2011. The venture is making an environmental impact as it collects around 183,000 pieces of fashion each year, of which over 138,900 pieces are reused, representing a 75% reuse rate. Moreover, Green Ladies demonstrated their social impact by having created over 55,000 hours of work for 55 middle-aged staff. The staff reported high job satisfaction rate and 75% of them feel they have become more eco-friendly. Their active support for middle-aged, unemployed/underprivileged women earned them the Outstanding Project Award (2017) in the Award Scheme in Promoting Women’s Economic Empowerment, issued by the Women’s Commission & the Labour and Welfare Bureau, and a Bronze Award for the “Retail Service & Courtesy Award (2017)” organised by the Hong Kong Retail Management Association.
"Dirty Laundry: Unravelling the corporate connections to toxic water pollution in China." Greenpeace International. Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 2011. https://storage.googleapis.com/planet4-international-stateless/2011/07/3da806cc-dirty-laundry-report.pdf. Accessed 5 January 2020.
"Pulse of the Fashion Industry." Global Fashion Agenda & The Boston Consulting Group. Copenhagen, Denmark, 2017. https://www.globalfashionagenda.com/publications-and-policy/pulse-of-the-industry/. Accessed 5 January 2020.