Buying outfits from Chinese-founded Shein is an affordable way to fill your wardrobe with reams of ultra-fast fashion. But as the company expands across the globe, it's attracting increased scrutiny, leading to concerns its low price point is being achieved at a cost to workers.
On Monday, lawmakers in the United States raised concerns about Shein's manufacturing processes in China. They’re calling for the company to be investigated amid claims that Uyghur forced labour is used to make some of its garments.
Responding to the claims, Shein issued a statement to Yahoo Lifestyle saying it has “zero tolerance for forced labor”. However, the company did not respond to a question about whether it manufactures in the Xinjiang region, or sources fabric from the region.
Have you already heard of Xinjiang?
You might have heard of Xinjiang before because China has been accused of imprisoning more than one million of its Muslim Uyghur population since 2017. Other allegations included forcing them into manufacturing labour camps, conducting intense surveillance and forced sterilisations. The Chinese Communist Party denies these claims.
In response to these allegations, a bipartisan group of two dozen US representatives have called on the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to halt a proposed initial public offering until it can prove it does not use forced labour, according to Reuters.
In a letter, they called on the SEC to mandate Shein to independently audit and verify "the company does not use Uyghur forced labour as a condition of being registered to issue securities in the United States”.
Not the first time questions raised about Shein
The request follows a 2022 Bloomberg investigation that claimed to have found links between Shein’s cotton and Xinjiang. Responding to the article, a number of US senators then asked the manufacturer if it sourced material from the region.
The company's response to concerns about its manufacturing has remained firm, but it is yet to clarify questions about Xinjiang. On Tuesday, the company issued a statement using nearly identical wording to what it said in response to the allegations in February.
“As a global company, SHEIN takes visibility across our entire supply chain seriously,” it said. “We are committed to respecting human rights and adhering to local laws and regulations in each market we operate in. Our suppliers must adhere to a strict code of conduct that is aligned to the International Labour Organisation’s core conventions. We have zero tolerance for forced labour.”
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