Boohoo launches supply chain investigation

Online fashion retailer boohoo is to conduct an independent investigation of its supply chain after claims - which the company disputes - that some of its garments were produced in UK 'sweatshops'.

The Sunday Times newspaper published an undercover report describing 'sweatshop' conditions and £3.50 per hour pay at a factory in Leicester, which is also thought to have been a leading cause of the city's spike in coronavirus cases.

The article focused on the Jaswal Fashions factory which it said produced garments for boohoo and its Nasty Gal brand. Home secretary Priti Patel described the allegations as "truly appalling" and instructed the National Crime Agency to investigate.

In the wake of the allegations the share price of boohoo fell by more than a quarter, wiping more than £1bn off the value of the company.

However boohoo, which operates a major distribution hub in Burnley, said the clothes in the newspaper report were manufactured overseas, and that Jaswal Fashions is not a supplier.

A company statement said: "The garments featured were not actually manufactured in Leicester, but in Morocco. Post production, the garments were shipped back to the UK by the supplier to be repackaged into compliant boxes for delivery to the group’s international distribution centre in Burnley.

"This was the process that was filmed at a premises formerly operated by Jaswal Fashions Limited. Jaswal Fashions Limited, contrary to the media report, is not and has never been a supplier for the group, and does not operate in the unit stated. "Investigations over the last 72 hours have highlighted that the order fromNasty Gal was placed with Revolution Clothing Co Limited, who then instructed Morefray Limited to manufacture in Morocco and repackage the garments on their behalf in Leicester.

"Our investigation to date has not found evidence of suppliers paying workers £3.50 per hour. However we have found other evidence of non-compliance with our Code of Conduct and the group has taken the decision to immediately terminate its relationship with both suppliers."

Boohoo said it would work with the Home Office in its investigations, saying: "We take extremely seriously all allegations of malpractice, poor working conditions, and underpayment of workers. The group will not tolerate any incidence of non-compliance with its Code of Conduct or any mistreatment of workers, and will not hesitate to terminate relationships with any supplier who does not comply."

The company will also undertake its own independent investigation, saying: "The group has launched an independent review of its UK supply chain. The objective of the review is to identify areas of risk and non-compliance, take action to strengthen future compliance, and to provide stakeholders with comfort that similar allegations will not recur in the future.The review will be led by Alison Levitt QC with boohoo board representation from Brian Small, the group’s deputy chairman and senior independent director.

"boohoo supports UK manufacturing and the British fashion industry. boohoo does not own or operate any manufacturing facilities. Producing garments in the UK does not bring a cost advantage for the group. We produce garments in the UK because of its proximity to our international distribution centres, giving the group additional flexibility to react to the latest trends for our customers. The group is wholly committed to continuing to have garments manufactured in the UK and we will develop initiatives to further support our suppliers."

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