Press briefing: SHEIN IPO and the human rights implications of its UK float

by | Jun 5, 2024 | Blog, Press release

Image credit: Public Eye

For immediate release: Wednesday 5th June, 2024

    • Fast Fashion brand SHEIN is rumoured to be launching a £50bn UK float in the coming week

    • Labour Behind the Label have issued this briefing on the human rights implications of this move. 

In response to news reports that UK political leaders from Labour and the Conservatives have been meeting with the fast fashion brand SHEIN to encourage their IPO launch on the London Stock Exchange, Alena Ivanova, campaigns lead at Labour Behind the Label said:

“From watering down commitments on workers’ rights domestically, to courting corporations with dubious records from abroad, the next government welcoming Shein to the City will be yet another betrayal to working people everywhere and the planet.

We’ve been following the news of senior politicians courting Shein with dismay amidst rumours of the company’s imminent IPO launch in London as soon as the end of this week. Only last month non-profit investigative organisation Public Eye found that workers producing garments for Shein routinely work over 70-hour weeks. This follows a thread of exposés around alleged forced labour, Uyghur-produced cotton, dangerous chemicals and a cavalier approach to design appropriation. 

Shein is not the only fashion brand to be embroiled in controversy or to profit from cheap and cheapening labour. The trouble is, where Shein goes others will follow. The model that has allowed the company to grow so rapidly sees workers as a cost to be minimised. Without shops or warehouses, let alone own-brand production sites, Shein churns out new designs subcontracted down a chain of smaller producers with zero transparency or responsibility for workers’ conditions or wages. 

Neither sustainability nor ethical production are of concern when cut throat prices and constant novelty are the main selling points. But the growth of this system cheapens all of us. It devalues human labour and puts huge strain on the environment with its exorbitant use of oil-derived fabrics. If consumers are encouraged not to care about the very item they’re purchasing, how are they expected to think about the people who made it? 

Instead of welcoming Shein with open arms, political parties of all shades should be asking tough questions of the company on its complete lack of transparency and information about its supply chain. The UK is already falling behind our neighbours in the EU, where countries have already introduced laws on mandatory human rights due diligence in corporate supply chains. The next government should prioritise introducing new laws requiring companies to prevent serious environmental harm and human rights abuses in their operations and supply chains, as called for by over 150 businesses and investors and supported by 4 in 5 UK adults. Finally, the next government should be bringing a message of hope and strength to workers here in the UK and those around the world who find themselves squeezed further and further by an economic system that delivers only for the rich, and sees both their labour and its products as fast, cheap and expendable.”

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