Boohoo co-founder Mahmud Kamani told MPs today that he wanted to “make Leicester right” as he faced questions over the practices at factories in the city that supply the fast fashion group.
Kamani was summoned to account for Boohoo’s environmental practices and the auditing of its suppliers by Parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee. Speaking to the committee, Kamani said the business was working to “fix” issues with suppliers in Leicester after an under-cover news reporter discovered workers at a factory in which Boohoo’s clothes were seen this summer were paid as little as £3.50 an hour.
Boohoo claimed that its clothes had been sent to the factory in question for packaging without its knowledge but nonetheless hired Alison Levitt QC to investigate its supply chain and produce an independent report. Published in September, the Levitt report concluded that while Boohoo did not seek to benefit from poor treatment of staff at its suppliers, it had been aware of problems for some time and had done little to fix the matter.
However Kamani pledged that the business was committed to making meaningful change. “We are fixing this,” he said. “We will make a better Boohoo.”
The hearing found that Boohoo had exited 64 Leicester factories since late 2019 as it sought to clean up its supply chain and carried out around 400 unannounced audits carried out this year.
Boohoo is said to make around 40% of its clothing in Leicester, a far greater percentage than other high street brands, and Kamani felt that his company was sometimes unfairly singled out for supporting UK manufacturing when it could simply offshore production.
“For us to move out of Leicester, it’s very easy for us to take all our production offshore,” he said. “Lots of people in the fashion industry have moved offshore. We are still here and sometimes, sometimes, it feels like we get punished for it, just sometimes.”
Kamani claimed the company remained committed to using factories in Leicester despite the issues, which it was fixing, and said he hoped that once the business established closer links with suppliers in the city, it might increase the number of units produced there.
Boohoo also came under fire for a Black Friday promotion in which some items were sold for as little as 6p with others sold with 99% off. Kamani said the move enabled shoppers who had little money to buy a new wardrobe and said that it was a one-off sale in a tough year. The average selling price of an item across Boohoo was £12, he said.
Following the publication of Levitt’s report, Boohoo appointed senior retired judge Sir Brian Leveson to oversee its supply chain. Reporting to the board Leveson, who made his name investigating conduct of the media, will provide regular updates on how the company is progressing with its Agenda for Change programme.
Leveson has also appointed legal and enforcement specialists to ensure supply chain “is treated fully in accordance with the law and principles of ethical trading”.