Independent review slams Boohoo’s Leicester supply chain

The independent review into fast fashion brand boohoo has found that there “many failings” in its Leicester supply chain.

Alison Levitt QC was appointed to conduct the Independent Review, after a summer of headlines that alleged that conditions in Leicester factories, which primarily supply Boohoo, were putting workers at risk of Covid-19 infections and fatalities.

Levitt’s review says that there is “ample evidence” that the steps which Boohoo is now taking in relation to remedying problems in its Leicester supply chain had been implemented nearly a year ago.

The reports added that the problems were a product of processes Boohoo had itself put in place and “not just a reaction” to the negative publicity in July and August. Nevertheless, says Boohoo, with the benefit of hindsight it “regrets that these processes did not advance quickly enough”.

Levitt goes on to say she is satisfied that boohoo did not deliberately allow poor conditions and low pay to exist within its supply chain, it did not intentionally profit from them and its business model is not founded on exploiting workers in Leicester.

In its conclusion, the report states that “if boohoo is willing to take a different approach to how it both views and interacts with the Leicester supply chain, it has within its power to be a tremendous force for good.” In addition, Ms Levitt is “confident that the adaptations which Boohoo should make involve a relatively easily-achieved realignment of its priorities and governance systems and that the Board should not feel discouraged. It has already made a significant start on putting things right.”

Boohoo says it will now improve its corporate governance, redefine its purchasing practices and raise standards across its supply chain – as well as supporting workers’ rights in Leicester.

John Lyttle, Group CEO, said: “This report has identified significant and clearly unacceptable issues in our supply chain, and the steps we had taken to address them, but it is clear that we need to go further and faster to improve our governance, oversight and compliance. As a result, the Group is implementing necessary enhancements to its supplier audit and compliance procedures, and the Board’s oversight of these matters will increase significantly.

“As a Board, we recognise that we need to rebuild confidence that these matters will be dealt with appropriately and sensitively, and that they will not recur. Garment workers in Leicester, and our suppliers across the city, are an important part of our success. We recognise that boohoo has been a major force in driving the textile industry in Leicester and today want to reinforce our commitment to being a leader for positive change in the city, alongside workers, suppliers, local government, NGOs and the community at large.

“Today we are setting out the further steps we are taking to drive long-lasting and meaningful change that all stakeholders in the boohoo group will benefit from.”