Fans Criticize SM Entertainment For “Greenwashing” Through Its Planned “Tree-Planting Movement”

“They need to change their structure of selling albums…”

SM Entertainment and its founder Lee Soo Man recently announced that they are ready to lead a new ‘green movement’ in K-Pop, but have faced significant backlash from fans over the company’s proposed plan.

(From left) Lee Soo Man, EXO’s Suho, and Professor Choe Jae Chun at the “SM Sustainability Forum” | SM Entertainment

On January 1, SM Entertainment held its annual winter concert, SMTOWN LIVE 2023, and the SM Sustainability Forum. At the forum, the company announced it intends to “tackle the climate crisis.” According to Lee Soo Man, the first step to doing so is planting trees.

Lee Soo Man | SM Entertainment

Planting trees can reduce carbon emissions and prevent desertification… So the tree-planting movement led by K-Pop and hallyu, or the Korean Wave, can become a catalyst for a better, new future.

— Lee Soo Man

He voiced confidence in SM Entertainment’s tree-planting initiative, saying, “If more people voluntarily take part in this movement, it will boost our mission of saving our earth, making it greener.”

Yet, despite the company’s positive intention and support from experts on the panel, many K-Pop fans have expressed frustration with its project—and it’s not unfounded.

SM Entertainment Founder/Executive Producer Lee Soo-man speaks during the 'SM Sustainability Forum,' Sunday. Courtesy of SM Entertainment
| SM Entertainment


Speaking with News Penguin, a representative of K-Pop For Planet (a fan-based climate action platform) accused SM Entertainment of “greenwashing.”

Planting trees has been done voluntarily by fans for a long time. Rather than mentioning activities that are already being done, focus on what only the agency can change so that we can truly change… When fans raised the issue of excessive album consumption from several years ago, there was no response, and talking about sustainability by planting trees is greenwashing.

— Lee Dayeon of K-Pop For Planet

Many Korean netizens agreed with the sentiment, calling out the company’s years-long encouragement of mass album consumption—a practice with a heavy impact on the environment.

  • They need to change their structure of selling albums and to do this fundamentally, they need to get rid of the random system first… 
  • They need to ban randomized albums like they did in the United Kingdom 
  • They need to start by banning random photocards…
  • And they need to stop with those “unreleased photocards”
  • No, but if he was really thinking about the environment that much, just don’t release any physical albums in the future ㅋ
  • Before thinking about planting trees, have you ever thought of not cutting them in the first place…

While K-Pop companies are now starting to address the issue of climate change more directly, it seems like fans are not yet content with the measures being taken.

Read further about Lee Soo Man’s talk at the SM Sustainability Forum right here.

SM Entertainment Artists Go Viral For Their Expressions While Listening To Lee Soo Man’s Lecture

Source: The Korea Times, Pannchoa and News Penguin
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