Boohoo Takes Steps Toward a Positive Change after Severing Business Ties with UK Suppliers

Katie Abson delves into the allegations reported against Boohoo Group PLC, and their latest efforts to admit change.

Boohoo is driving toward a more sustainable and ethically principled future by cutting ties with hundreds of UK manufacturers.

Last year, Boohoo commissioned senior barrister Alison Levitt QC to conduct an independent review into their UK supply chain, following newspaper allegations published in 2019 that declared “unacceptable working conditions and underpayment of workers”. Boohoo decided to publish Levitt’s report in full, stating on the Boohoo Group PLC website that they “wanted people to make their own judgements about the actions we were taking to protect workers and improve standards in our supply chain.”

The 2019 allegations proved valid, as Levitt reported employees were “routinely paid substantially less than the minimum wage and worked long hours in neglected and unsafe factories.”

One of Levitt’s core recommendations was to publish a list of approved UK suppliers, as well as to reduce and ultimately eradicate sub-contracting. Boohoo accepted all of Levitt’s recommendations and immediately set up their “Agenda for Change” programme, which Levitt stated must take immediate action in the subsequent six months.

Boohoo has now published a full list of 78 UK suppliers that they continue to work with and has thus ceased doing business with manufacturers who were unable to meet conditions set out in Levitt’s report, which include “payment of the minimum wage”, “proof of working hours”, “right to work documentation” and more, prioritising health and safety and the safekeeping of paperwork on-site for immediate inspection.

In November 2020, Boohoo appointed Sir Brian Leveson to independently monitor their “Agenda for Change” progress. Leveson published his first report on 6 January 2021 providing information on the significant progress Boohoo has already made in response to Levitt’s publication. Last Thursday, Leveson published his second report, which states “there is no doubt about the determination of all those involved to address the failings for which Boohoo has been criticised and to embed a new way of working”.

Boohoo has since spoken of their commitment to upholding change within their company, and have joined groups such as the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, Sustainable Clothing Action Plan and the Microfibre Consortium. They have also created a sustainability plan for 2021 which states their intentions of creating a more ethically improved and environmentally friendly company as they move forward into the future.

You can follow more updates about Katie’s work on Twitter via @katieawriter.

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