Boohoo released a report this morning outlining the results of the independent investigation they had commissioned Alison Levitt QC to conduct.  The investigation came in the wake of negative press in July and August following allegations around conditions in their Leicester factories.

The report concluded that “its [Boohoo’s] business model is not founded on exploiting workers in Leicester” and that “It has already made a significant start on putting things right”.    However, will this report be enough to convince consumers that are increasingly conscious of how their clothes are made?

Ongoing allegations

Allegations about Boohoo’s mistreatment of factory workers, including lock-down violations, re-surfaced in July after the publication of an investigation by Labour behind the Label.  These were not the first such allegations against the ecommerce group, which includes Boohoo, Pretty Little Thing, Nasty Gal, Karen Millen and Coast.

As a result of this report, Boohoo appointed Alison Levitt QC to look into their supply chain, and pledged to publish her full report as a commitment to better transparency.  

The scope of the review was to:

1. consider whether the allegations about working conditions and low pay are well-founded; and if they are;

2. consider the extent to which boohoo monitored its Leicester supply chain and had knowledge of the allegations;

3. consider the Group’s compliance with the relevant law; and

4. make recommendations for the future.

The report’s conclusions

Ms Levitt found that Boohoo had already put into place measures to improve working conditions in Leicester, and did not believe that the business model itself was based on exploiting employees.

However, the report did outline several areas of improvement including better corporate governance measures and a “raising of standards across our supply chain”.

Ways forward

Boohoo outlined in the statement this morning several measures designed to tackle the issues outlined in the report, such as the creation of new senior roles to oversee implementation, and the creation of new purchasing principles for their buying teams.  

They also committed to several initiatives specifically in Leicester, from the creation of their own production facility to show “best practice in action” but also educating workers on their rights. 

Ms Levitt concluded “if Boohoo is willing to take a different approach to how it both views and interacts with the Leicester supply chain, it has within its power to be a tremendous force for good.”

Can a fast fashion retailer truly be ethical?

While the report was clear in setting out the ways in which Boohoo can respond to these allegations and move forward, will this statement be enough to appease those consumers who were turned off the brand by the allegations against them? 

Conscious consumerism, the notion of buying less but buying better, has been a fast growing trend in recent years.  Conscious consumers are also increasingly suspicious of “greenwashing”, or companies that claim to make a commitment to improving their supply chains but not doing enough to tackle inequalities and problematic working practices. 

While the rebound of Boohoo’s stock price today, getting close to it’s price in the summer before the allegations hit, it is clear that investors were heartened by the report’s findings. 

The question remains whether their pledge to improve will convince increasingly concerned consumers that they have gone far enough.

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