The CEOs of both Boohoo and ASOS have agreed to appear in front of MPs next week as part of an on-going inquiry into the environmental practices of the UK fashion industry, but Missguided CEO Nitin Passi has been called out by the MP leading the process for sending a departmental head in his place.
ASOS chief Nick Beighton and Boohoo joint CEO Carol Kane are both attending the oral evidence session for the Environmental Audit Committee’s inquiry at the Houses of Parliament on Tuesday morning (27 November). Others in attendance include Burberry chief people, strategy and corporate affairs officer Leanne Wood, Marks & Spencer director of sustainable business Mike Barry, Primark head of ethical trade & environmental sustainability team Paul Lister, and Arcadia head of supplier management Jamie Beck.
Passi has fielded Paul Smith, head of product quality & supply at Missguided to face the MPs, which drew criticism from Mary Creagh, MP, who is chair of the Environmental Audit Committee. Creagh wrote to Passi to express that she was disappointed that he was not attending in person, particularly given his contemporaries at Boohoo and ASOS were attending.
She wrote that in previous evidence sessions and in written submissions serious concerns about the fast fashion industry had been raised such as “excessive waste, plastic pollution and carbon footprint generated” by the sector.
“Given the seriousness of these issues we would expect them to warrant your personal attention as the ultimate decision-maker in your organisation. Chief Executives from both Boohoo and ASOS have accepted our invitation to appear in Parliament on Tuesday 27 November. We are disappointed that you have declined,” Creagh wrote.
“The Committee notes that you found time to give an interview to a Sunday newspaper last week. Can I therefore reiterate our Committee’s invitation to you to attend our hearing on Tuesday in order for you personally to respond to our questions. I am sure your attendance will be of great interest to the House of Commons, your customers, and the wider public,” she added.
Passi, however, defended his decision to send Smith, who is a long-standing expert in sustainability. He also noted that there were no specific allegations made against Missguided in evidence heard so far.
“I have asked my senior colleague, Paul Smith, to attend because Paul was recruited directly by me because of his expertise. Paul reports directly to me. He is Missguided’s representative at the Ethical Trading Initiative, is a member of its Leicester working group, and has hands-on responsibility for its work there,” Passi said.
He also noted that Missguided is a far smaller company that the listed fashion giants called to give evidence and its turnover represented just 0.26% of the UK womenswear market.
The committee has already held hearings with fashion industry innovators and educators, and designers, environmental campaigners and journalists. The outcome of the session with the major brands and retailers is the most hotly anticipated.
All the evidence offered at the last session on 13 November can be viewed here. Fashion industry figures in attendance included designers Phobe English and Graeme Raeburn, along with Eco-Age founder Livia Firth and journalist and campaigner Lucy Siegel.
Fresh from attending the evidence session, Mary Creagh, MP, will be appearing at the Fashion Futures Forum, held in partnership with Avery Dennison on the afternoon of 27 November. Final tickets for the event, which takes place can be purchased here.
Additional speakers include designers Maria Grachvogel and Oliver Spencer, Shafiq Hassan founder of sustainable brand Ninety Percent, Gemma Metheringham, chief creative officer at Label/Mix and Roian Attwood, director of sustainability at Wrangler. Tickets are priced at just £95+VAT.