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ThredUp’s New Policy Head on Government’s Role in ‘Green Legislation’

One of the world’s largest resale platforms for women’s and children’s clothing is putting public policy on its agenda.

ThredUp announced Thursday that it has tapped Seth Levey to lead government affairs and policy initiatives that “drive impact” by encouraging the widespread adoption of circular fashion business models with an emphasis on reuse.

As head of public policy and sustainability, Levey will oversee ThredUp’s broader environmental, social, and governance efforts. He previously served as an advisor to Equnior, ExxonMobil and the Energy for Growth Hub and will report to Alon Rotem, the company’s chief legal officer.

“At ThredUp, we have spent more than a decade scaling an online resale marketplace where consumers make smart, sustainable fashion choices,” Rotem told Sourcing Journal.”We also believe that the government has a role to play in supporting private-sector innovations that serve the broader public interest. This is true for green legislation and incentives for everything from plastic bags to electric vehicles.”

Levey said he will focus on establishing ThredUp as a “leader in sustainability” and an “advocate for the planet” by “blending” two critical but often separate job descriptions—public policy and sustainability—into one.

“The first step is all about building relationships and educating a variety of stakeholders about how resale and ThredUp can be a powerful solution to the fashion industry’s wastefulness,” he told Sourcing Journal. “I’ll spend time understanding the gaps of knowledge among policymakers when it comes to circular fashion and how ThredUp and others can fill those holes. I’ll also be identifying people, groups, and other organizations to partner with that I believe share our vision of ushering in a more sustainable future for fashion and can help us achieve a greater impact, faster.”

Seth Levey will “drive impact” by encouraging the widespread adoption of circular fashion business models with an emphasis on reuse.
Seth Levey, ThredUp’s new head of policy and sustainability. Courtesy

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ThredUp has already branched out into lobbying lawmakers, putting its name to a letter earlier this month that urged the authors of New York’s Fashion Sustainability and Social Accountability Act to prioritize reuse over recycling as the primary way to decouple industry growth from virgin resource extraction. ThredUp CEO James Reinhart was also an early signatory of Fashion Declares, an initiative founded by former People Tree global CEO Safia Minney that seeks to build an equitable and regenerative fashion industry.

Sustainability, Levey said, is a core part of ThredUp’s DNA. With the enthusiasm surrounding the Fashion Act demonstrating a “marked shift” in expectations around corporate social responsibility, engaging in such forums will be critical not only to build momentum for the circular economy but also to establish ThredUp as a “leader and change-maker in the space.”

Government support would give existing trends a major boost, data from ThredUp’s 2021 resale report suggests. According to a poll it commissioned, 47 percent of U.S. consumers would be more inclined to purchase secondhand clothing if the sales tax was eliminated or they received a tax credit for their purchases. More than half (58 percent) of U.S. retail executives also say they would be more likely to experiment with clothing resale if there were financial incentives for doing so.

“If fashion continues to move in this direction, ThredUp not only wants to be part of the change, but [it] also wants to lead the change,” Levey said. “Establishing this role enables us to more effectively advocate for initiatives that will usher in a more sustainable future for fashion. To make change, you first have to speak.”