If you’re an avid thrift shopper, or even if you enjoy partaking in the odd DIY, you’ve probably heard of Value Village. Also known as Savers in the United States.
Value Village thrives off of donations from their local community and big holidays like Halloween and Christmas. When you drop off donations at Value Village you feel good. Knowing that you’re able to give your unloved items a new life. As consumers, we expect that we’re doing the environment and our local charities a favour. However, a surprising amount of people are unaware that Value Village is a for-profit store. Only donating roughly 17% of their proceeds to charity. Keep in mind that Savers has risen to become a billion dollar company.
A complaint has been filed in the United States based on the misleading claims that Value Village projects. It can be very confusing to consumers when they’re constantly reading that their donation is benefiting a charity, when in reality a very small portion of it truly is. This has spurred a feeling of mistrust in the eyes of their shoppers.
I ignored this scandal until I received this email in my inbox:
It dawned on me that Value Village is a raging hypocrite. Their moral compass is completely askew.
Fast Fashion is something that Value Village claims to combat. In their 2018 Community Impact Report, they state that roughly 86 billion pounds of clothing is thrown away each year. They continually state that their goal is to Rethink Reuse, yet, here they are selling brand-new ugly Christmas sweaters.
Not only have they missed the point that an ugly Christmas sweater should be your grandmother’s vintage sweater, but they’re promoting excessive consumption. How many people will truly re-wear their ugly Christmas sweater?
I want to give Value Village benefit of the doubt. Perhaps their brand-new clothing is made from recycled materials and in a sustainable and ethical manner. Perhaps they have shown that they are practicing what they preach through the achievement of third party certifications.
I decided to visit my local Value Village and look at only their brand-new clothing. To find out if they were responsibly produced. It seems as though they have no shortage of new apparel. Here’s a few of the brands I found:
Gold Medal International: Socks
They wholesale for many large companies including Nordstrom, Kohl’s and TJ Maxx. There was absolutely no sourcing information provided on their website. But from the UPC code on the socks, I can tell that they were specifically produced for Value Village (TVI inc.)
Orly Shoe Corporation: Slippers
The definition of a fast fashion brand. They produce clothing for Dollartree, Forever 21 and Bed Bath & Beyond. There is no third party certifications listed. I highly doubt that an item produced for a dollar store has been produced ethically and responsibly. If you can prove me wrong, I’d be happy to see it.
Gina Group: Slippers
Produces clothing for Steve Madden, Cosmopolitan and Chatties. There is no third party certification or sourcing information available, though I was able to find that they donate a portion of their profits to the National Breast Cancer Foundation. I truly wonder how many women in sweatshops die of cancer from inhaling toxic fumes and working in unsafe conditions.
TVI Inc: Elf Hats & Ugly christmas sweaters
This is the Savers/ Value Village brand itself. Yep, that means that Value Village personally makes their own cheap, brand-new holiday products. There’s absolutely no information on the sourcing or materials used to make these items.
Here’s the problem
These manufacturers are not transparent about the products they manufacture and most of them have been made in China or Pakistan. Both of which are still notorious for unsafe working conditions and health risks. It’s a humanitarian nightmare. Not to mention it is exceptionally unlikely that they have used any of the recycled materials to produce this clothing.
Value Village is a Hypocrite
Within their 2018 Community Impact Report, they state what matters most to them. There’s 6 main principles, but two really stood out to me.
Act with Ethics & Integrity:
We always strive to do the right thing. Ethics and integrity consistently guide our actions and decisions.
Protect the Planet:
Through the power of reuse, we extend the life of the goods we purchase, help protect the environment and fuel small businesses around the globe.
From what I can tell, they’re not fulfilling their promise for acting with ethics and integrity. Otherwise they wouldn’t profit from people who work in sweatshops. At the very least they would ensure that the people making these brand-new items of clothing are receiving fair pay and work in safe factories. A third party certification would be crucial for ensuring they stand by that statement.
It’s blatantly obvious that Value Village, TVI inc. Has one principle in mind: make money. They are under the guise of protecting the planet through these initiatives but are unable to stand behind their own values. I don’t doubt that they are recycling unsold donations, but it seems hypocritical to sell brand-new apparel made from virgin materials.
Here’s what you can do
I’m ashamed at Value Village, I wish I could cut them out of my life. However, as I mentioned before, they are the largest secondhand shop nearby. It’s just not possible for me to completely remove them as a shopping destination.
If you’ve got household items and clothes to donate and don’t want any monetary compensation. Try your local Buy Nothing group. If your clothes are in good condition you can always try to earn extra cash through online shops like Depop and ThredUp. If those options sound like too much work, you likely have smaller thrift shops like Salvation Army or Mission Thrift available nearby.
Avoid purchasing brand-new clothing and decorations from Value Village. There are many other responsible companies that produce undergarments without breaking the bank. Although Value Village doesn’t stand by their values, it doesn’t mean you don’t have to.
Make Value Village Your Last Stop
In the circumstance where you have limited thrift store options, choose to visit Value Village last. Try to find whatever you’re in search of through other smaller thrift stores, Kijiji, Facebook Marketplace or even your local Buy Nothing group.
Let it be known
Let your local Value Village know that you want them to stand by and practice what they preach. It’s not like they don’t make enough money to afford third party certifications like Cradle to Cradle and B Corp. They have the dream business model: make money off items they receive for free. Is it really too much to ask?
How do you feel about Value Village?