Chinese fast fashion retailer has launched SHEIN Exchange, where customers can buy and sell second-hand products. The news after a Channel 4 investigation reported that factory workers in China were paid 3 pence per item during 18-hour shifts.
- Shein has launched a resale platform for customers in the US.
- The move comes after a Channel 4 investigation reported poor working practices at garment factories in China.
- Campaigners have been urging SHEIN to change its unsustainable business model, with its ultra-low prices and high product churn.
SHEIN Exchange to promote circularity among its customers
The new platform is an online peer-to-peer resale destination to buy and sell previously owned SHEIN products. It is currently available in the US and will be rolled out to more markets next year.
It is free and can be accessed through the existing SHEIN app. The fast-fashion giant said it is intended to promote circularity among its customers, who can avoid the fees required by other resale apps or websites.
Adam Whinston, global head of ESG at SHEIN, said: “The goal of SHEIN Exchange is to make resale just as easy and convenient as buying something brand new, while also igniting a cultural movement of circularity within our own SHEIN community. We’re calling on our community to mobilize and keep previously owned clothing in circulation for as long as possible.”
Damning report reveals poor working practices in China
The announcement comes a day after the launch of ‘Inside the Shein Machine: UNTOLD’, an investigation by Channel 4 that revealed poor working practices in SHEIN garment factories in China.
The undercover report said that, in one factory, workers were paid 3 pence per garment during 18-hour shifts, with only one day off per month. In another factory, workers were paid 4,000 yuan (just under £500) per month for 500 garments a day, and could earn a commission of 2 pence per item.
These practices were found to be in breach of SHEIN’s code of conduct for suppliers, as well domestic Chinese law.
In a statement SHEIN said: “We are extremely concerns by the claims presented by Channel 4, which would violate the Code of Conduct agreed to by every SHEIN supplier. Any non-compliance with this code is dealt with swiftly, and we will not hesitate to terminate partnerships that do not meet our standards.
“SHEIN’s Responsible Sourcing standards hold our manufacturing suppliers to a code of conduct based on International Labor Organization conventions and local laws and regulations governing labor practices and working conditions.
“We work with leading independent agencies like TUV, SGS, OpenView and Intertek to conduct unannounced audits at supplier facilities. We have requested specific information from Channel 4 so that we can investigate.”
SHEIN’s fast-fashion business model is considered unsustainable
SHEIN’s business model involves an extremely high churn of material. Its website presents thousands of new items every day, at ultra-low prices and poor durability.
For example, the women’s section of the UK website alone had over 8,700 items on its ‘New In’ page on the day of writing. The cheapest items were keychains and phone stickers for £0.50 each, while the cheapest garment was a crop top priced at £4.49.
The offering attracts thousands of customers, especially among a younger generation constantly on the search for new looks. SHEIN also adopts a savvy social media strategy, including promotion by influencers. Yet there is a shift in the expectation of many young consumers, concerned about the impact of their fashion choices.
SHEIN is responding to environmental criticism
The company, valued at $100 billion following an April 2022 funding round, has been urged by campaigners to change its ways to limit its environmental impact.
According to McKinsey, the production of clothing is much faster than the technology needed to reuse or recycle the materials, with 3 out of 5 garments ending up in landfill or incinerated each year.
The company said that SHEIN Exchange is just one of several moves the company is making to help address the ongoing issues of textile waste and build a future of fashion that is more circular.
Some of its recent initiatives include the launch of evoluSHEIN, a purpose-driven collection that uses responsibly sourced materials; signing up to the Canopy Initiative to signal a commitment to keeping ancient and endangered forests out of our supply chain; and the launch of an Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) Fund to help advance the sustainability strategies focused on addressing textile waste.
There is a growing focus on the importance of social responsibility
The issue of social impact is becoming an increasing important factor for brands today, and there are growing calls for regulation, given that brands are clearly not doing a great job in governing their supply chains.
Natalie Swan, Labour Rights Project Manager, Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, said: “We need government regulation in supplier countries, as well as in buying countries, which leaves no room for the abuse of labour rights across supply chains, with strong support for mandatory human rights due diligence and freedom of association.”
She added: “Businesses must take responsibility for their own operations. They must commit to responsible sourcing and implementing human rights policies that, importantly, are put into action throughout their supply chain. This should include fair purchasing practices to ensure workers have access to living wages and safe workplaces – and must be the norm, rather than the exception, across the apparel sector. “
While SHEIN is clearly starting to take action on environmental impact, driven by changing consumer expectations, it seems it has some way to go in effectively managing its social impact.