The Guideline to Second-hand and Pre-Loved Items published by the British Retail Consortium has been developed by a cohort of retailers, resale platforms, charity retailers and other industry experts.

The guideline outlines the steps retailers can take to adhere to circular economy principles. By following this circular model, retailers will further the progress they have already made to lengthen the lifecycle of the products consumers buy, the BRC says.

“We are delighted to launch our first voluntary Guideline on second-hand and preloved items,” said Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC. “With more people looking for ways to shop sustainably, particularly as the cost-of-living rises, the sale of second-hand items in-store and online can encourage sustainable behaviours at affordable prices and take us one step further towards a circular economy. 

“Retailers recognise the role they can play in helping their customers shop in more environmentally friendly ways, and we hope that this Guideline will help many on their sustainability journey.” 

For clothing, footwear, homeware textiles, and other items, retailers can promote resale markets and platforms; use hire and rental subscription services; and offer product swaps, upcycling and repair schemes, instead of throwing away items.

The guideline emphasises the importance of quality checks, which clearly informs the customer of the item’s condition. It also clarifies that its aim is not to promote the circulation of perfect items, but rather to circulate all items, safe in the knowledge that both buyer and seller have the exact same level of information and expectation of their condition. 

Its publication comes as charity Oxfam celebrates its ‘Second-Hand September’, which encourages people to buy only second-hand items for 30 days in the month of September.

With an estimated GBP140m (US$150.3m) worth of clothing sent to landfill every year, according to WRAP, and 88% of people wanting brands to help them live sustainably, according to GlobalData, the BRC and its members reiterate their duty of care to their customers and their responsibility in ensuring more circular economy principles are adhered to.

The guideline has already been welcomed in Westminster and Holyrood, with Dr Lisa Cameron MP and Maurice Golden MSP tabling motions of support in their respective parliaments.

The BRC’s long-term goal is to limit, and ultimately end, the sending of items to landfill unnecessarily and to keep them in circulation for longer so that they can be used and loved by more people. The BRC is already working with retailers on their journey to Net Zero through their Climate Action Roadmap. Supported by over 80 major retailers, it is the retail industry’s commitment to reduce industry and supply chain carbon emissions to zero by 2040. 

Murray Lambell, general manager of eBay UK and contributor to guideline, said: “We all have a part to play to get to a more sustainable future, and shopping differently is a vital part of this. At eBay, we’re on a mission to change the conversation around pre-loved shopping to help every person, little by little, have an impact. That’s why we’ve launched a number of specialist hubs such as Certified Refurbished and Imperfects, and why we recently partnered with Love Island. But to bring about the major change we need, we need to work together as an broader industry, which is why we’re so pleased to be helping set standards for the fashion industry to be more circular, and to back the BRC’s new Second-Hand Guideline, to help us move to a more sustainable, circular economy.” 

Dr Lisa Cameron, MP for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Textiles and Fashion, added: “It is great to see retailers take responsible initiatives to deliver a more circular economy. This practical and detailed guideline will support retailers, brands, and resell platforms to keep thousands of products in use for longer, an important move towards their aim and ambition to limit, and ultimately end, sending items to landfill. Parliament welcomes this guidance, and we hope to support more actions taken by retailers to further the circular economy in the future.”