// Boohoo lacks progress in addressing labour rights abuses, according to rights groups
// The Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, Labour Behind The Label and ShareAction have raised concerns
// The organisations reviewed a report by Alison Levitt QC, and three subsequent reports by Brian Leveson QC
Rights groups have raised concerns about Boohoo’s progress in addressing labour rights abuses in its supply chain.
The concerns were expressed by the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, Labour Behind The Label and ShareAction, in response to Leveson reports.
The rights groups, which have been monitoring the situation in Leicester over the past year, found little evidence that Boohoo had addressed poor labour practice in its supply chain.
The organisations reviewed the report by Alison Levitt QC, and three subsequent reports by Brian Leveson QC, and found the positive conclusions reached in these reports to be unsubstantiated.
They concluded that the Agenda for Change is “simply providing a veneer of progress without corresponding improvements for workers”.
Leveson said Boohoo needs to have “a buying process capable of being audited to justify the price of whatever is being bought so any failure by a supplier to comply with Boohoo’s Code of Conduct cannot be the consequence of aggressive pricing by Boohoo”.
ShareAction said: “Without confirmation from Boohoo that the price paid to suppliers has changed to ensure workers are paid at least minimum wage and all expected benefits (such as national insurance contribution, holiday pay, pension auto-enrolment and statutory sick and maternity pay) the conditions for labour rights abuses that have persisted for the past decade will continue unabated.”
The rights groups also said that the expansion of Boohoo’s supply chain to Italy, Morocco and Pakistan runs the risk of exporting a business model that results in poor labour practices to other countries.
The Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, Labour Behind The Label and ShareAction call for:
1. Evidence Boohoo Group has ringfenced labour costs and all workers are being paid at least the legal minimum wage.
2. Immediate engagement with trade unions to ensure organising within factories and warehouses can take place.
3. Strong governance: Boohoo should move their registration from Jersey, move their listing from the AIM to FTSE and sign up to the UK Corporate Governance Code.
Business and Human Rights Resource Centre, senior labour rights lead, Thulsi Narayanasamy said: “Adopting policies and implementing them are two very different things. It appears the Boohoo Group is going to great lengths to appear committed to change, but this hasn’t necessarily translated into action.
“Sources in Leicester suggest there is serious cause for concern with workers still being paid well below the minimum wage at £5 – 5.50 an hour.
“By over-emphasising the role of factories, Boohoo is wrongly exonerated for its central role in creating the necessary conditions of labour abuses.”
A Boohoo spokesperson told Retail Gazette: “There is an absolute failure from the three rights groups to recognise any of the substantial action undertaken by Sir Brian Leveson, Tim Godwin, KPMG, Boohoo and other relevant local bodies and authorities.
“Significant progress has been made to date, including the consolidation of suppliers to 54, who are working with the business to drive a continuous cycle of improvement and that journey will continue.
“It is therefore completely out of touch and frankly incorrect, to suggest that thousands of suppliers in Leicester are producing for the group, when we only source from 54 approved manufacturers who are detailed on our website.
“All 54 have been forensically investigated and audited and as the group announced this week they are all now required to adopt the Fast Forward model of auditing.
“Sir Brian Leveson says that Boohoo’s continuous assessment of its UK manufacturing base is demonstrating a degree of due diligence which may well go beyond that which is undertaken by other retailers or in other industries.
“Leicester has a very proud history of unionisation, but the unions do not currently unionise in Leicester’s garment and textiles industry despite their being no impediment by boohoo or anyone else for them to do so.
“We are proud to have set up and committed £1 million to the Textiles and Garment Workers Trust in Leicester to help champion workers’ rights and provide support for vulnerable garment workers in Leicester.
“We are committed to growing with compliant suppliers and continue to source similar volumes out of the UK vs 12 months ago, working with fewer, larger suppliers who have evidenced that they share our values.
“Unlike many others, who have turned their backs on UK manufacturing, Boohoo have faced into the challenges with an absolute determination to fix any problems.”