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Boohoo hit by further accusations about its supply chain

Lauretta Roberts
22 December 2020

Boohoo has been hit with further accusations about the treatment of workers in its supply chain with an investigation by The Guardian alleging that workers, at a factory that supplies the etailer in Pakistan, are subject to unsanitary conditions and paid as little as 29p per hour.

The Guardian carried out interviews at two factories in Faisalabad where workers said they were paid £47 a month and sometimes work 24 hour shifts in the rush to provide garments to Boohoo and other brands in the West.

Having been approached by The Guardian with the findings Boohoo immediately suspended a supplier JD Fashion Ltd, and a factory, AH Fashion, while it conducted an investigation.

Another factory involved in the investigation, Madina Gloves, said it had not recently produced any items for Boohoo. Both AH and Medina say that workers are paid in accordance with local laws and they deny any mistreatment of staff.

JD Fashion Ltd (which has no connection with JD Sports) is based in Preston and acts as an intermediary for Boohoo. It supplied the clothes manufactured at AH Fashion but said that it had not placed any orders with the factory since October and had no orders under way for Boohoo at this time.

The Guardian ordered a tracksuit from Boohoo, which was delivered on 15 December, with labelling that appeared to match those of garments it filmed being made in AH Fashion on behalf of JD Fashion Ltd.

Boohoo said a third-party audit in November found no issues at the site and a follow-up visit by its own auditors following the accusations revealed that AH was a building site. The factory is currently closed for renovation and its owners claimed it had been closed throughout November and December, though workers claim it had been open more recently.

In a statement Boohoo told the newspaper that JD Fashion Ltd had not declared AH Fashion as a supplier so it was therefore not approved for use by the etailer. It said it was also unaware of any of its garments being made by Madina Gloves.

Boohoo's supply chain has been under intense scrutiny this year since an investigation by The Sunday Times into practices as factories in Leicester revealed that some workers, in sites where Boohoo garments were seen, were paid as little as £1.50 an hour. 

Those accusations rocked Boohoo sending its share price tumbling but the company responded by ordering an independent inquiry into its supply chain by Alison Levitt QC, who published her findings in September. Levitt said she found no evidence that Boohoo deliberately sought to profit from or encourage mistreatment of staff among its suppliers but that it had been aware of potential issues and not acted quickly enough to resolve them.

Following that report Boohoo hired retired judge Sir Brian Leveson to oversee its supply chain, report to the board and publish reports into progress made under the company’s Agenda for Change programme.

Last week Boohoo co-founder and executive chairman Mahmud Kamani appeared in front of MPs to answer for the company's dealings with its Leicester suppliers. Kamani said the group was committed to fixing the issues and keeping as much of its manufacturing in the UK as possible. “We are fixing this,” Kamani said. “We will make a better Boohoo.”

In response to The Guardian investigation, the company said: "As part of our international compliance programme, independent compliance and auditing specialists, Bureau Veritas are on the ground in Faisalabad and we have instructed them to immediately investigate these claims and complete unannounced audits on both factories.

"As we have previously stated, we will not tolerate any instance of mistreatment or underpayment of garment workers in our supply chain. Any supplier who does not treat their workers with the respect they deserve has no place in the Boohoo supply chain.”

Read The Guardian investigation here.


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