Boohoo has been accused of failing to back pay factory workers that were paid £3.50 per hour © Boohoo
Boohoo has been accused of failing to back pay factory workers that were paid £3.50 per hour © Boohoo

Boohoo appoints Leveson to monitor ethics progress

26 November 2020

Boohoo has appointed retired judge Sir Brian Leveson to oversee its supply chain overhaul.

Leveson, who conducted the famous inquiry into press ethics following the phone-hacking scandal, will provide independent oversight of Boohoo’s ‘agenda for change’ programme, which the retailer said will “deliver long-lasting and meaningful change” to its supply chain and business practices.

In his new role, Leveson will report directly to the board and work alongside legal and independent enquiry and enforcement specialists to “ensure that everyone associated with the group's supply chain is treated fully in accordance with the law and the principles of ethical trading”, Boohoo said. 

Leveson’s appointment was announced as a campaign group criticised the retailer for “cutting and running” and failing to take responsibility for poor working conditions uncovered at factories in Leicester.

The retailer introduced the ‘agenda for change’ programme after a review by Alison Levitt QC found that Boohoo’s monitoring of its Leicester supply chain was “inadequate for many years”.

The review followed allegations that workers in UK factories manufacturing Boohoo’s garments were paid just £3.50 an hour and were not provided with PPE during the UK’s first national lockdown. 

Boohoo has also appointed auditors KPMG to assist with the programme. KPMG will work with the company's responsible sourcing and compliance team and existing supply chain auditors Bureau Veritas and Verisio. 

Leveson said: “Boohoo has recognised that it must institute and embed change so that everyone involved in the group's supply chain is treated fully in accordance with the law and the principles of ethical trading. 

“I look forward to providing independent oversight of the agenda for change programme and to working with the boohoo team, KPMG and the other independent experts to achieve this, while, at the same time, providing publicly available progress reports.”

Mahmud Kamani, group executive chairman, said: “I am encouraged by the progress that has been made to date by our teams since setting out our agenda for change programme in September.

“Myself and the board are fully committed to this programme, with the appointments of Sir Brian Leveson and KPMG bringing independent oversight, additional expertise and further transparency to a programme that will help us on our journey to lead the fashion e-commerce market globally in a transparent manner.” 

Earlier this month, Boohoo’s newly appointed responsible sourcing director, Andrew Reaney told MPs it was a “matter of regret” for the firm that it “didn’t move as fast as it should have” to deal with reports of poor working conditions in Leicester.

He added the retailer had been acting on its commitments to improve sourcing practices.

Anna Bryher, at campaign group Labour Behind the Label, said: “Sir Brian Leveson is a respected name in the legal profession, but big names can’t be the conclusion of the matter. Sir Brian’s first task must be to act to remedy the past actions of Boohoo, by paying back workers for the wages stolen from them.”

The campaign group has accused Boohoo of “cutting and running from factories without taking responsibility for the past” by failing to back pay underpaid workers. 

Labour Behind the Label said it had also received evidence that alleged that Kamani had been taking meetings in Dubai in recent days with Leicester suppliers.

“A selected number of trusted Leicester factory owners have been flown out on an all-expenses-paid trip to thank them for their loyalty, to discuss Boohoo production in the city, and to allegedly provide advice on taking on new suppliers in Pakistan,” the group said. 

Bryher added: “Repeated studies have shown that Boohoo clothes have been made by workers on illegally low wages, working hugely long hours, paid through false pay slips and double records. Boohoo’s £3.50/hr factory workers are owed back pay that may add up to millions.

“While Boohoo may be intent on cleaning up its act, cutting and running from factories without taking responsibility for the past is not acceptable. Workers in Leicester are owed a debt, and Boohoo must pay them back.”

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