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Boohoo enquiry 'can't be fully independent', warns Ethical Trading Initiative

By Huw Hughes


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Boohoo’s ongoing independent investigation into its UK supply chain following reports of poor working conditions at factories in Leicester “can't be fully independent”, according to the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI).

The ETI has declined to complete a questionnaire as part of the public call for evidence relating to the review because it doesn’t believe the enquiry - which is being commissioned and paid for by Boohoo - is an adequate response to the issue.

“Firstly, we do not believe that an enquiry commissioned by boohoo and paid for by boohoo can be fully independent. We would expect a wide number of stakeholders who understand the complexities of the UK garment industry to be involved in a truly independent enquiry. Many of those stakeholders have been working for some time to develop positive changes to the industry,” the ETI said in a statement.

“Secondly, the narrow questions in the survey appear to be designed to focus us on individual factories and suppliers, rather than looking at the business practices that feed this environment. We are concerned that no reference is made to the responsibilities of business set out in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human rights which look at the broader influence of a business than just its legal obligations.

“Thirdly, there is no mention of the other locations where boohoo face criticism, such as Burnley.”

Boohoo to provide update on investigation next month

In July, an undercover investigation by The Sunday Times found that certain factories in Leicester that supply clothing to Boohoo were forcing some employees to work while sick with Covid-19 and paying just 3.50 pounds per hour - the minimum wage is 8.72 pounds for those aged 25.

Earlier this week, home secretary Priti Patel wrote to Boohoo urging the retailer to “step up” and ensure its suppliers are “protected and remediated” following allegations of poor working conditions.

In a letter to Boohoo CEO John Lyttle, Patel wrote: “I am concerned that your response to recent reports of labour exploitation in your supply chains appears to be focused on terminating contracts with suppliers found to have breached your code of conduct, rather than on protecting vulnerable workers.

“I would expect Boohoo to work with its suppliers to ensure that workers are protected and remediated.”

She added: “It is now more important than ever before that businesses step up and take responsibility for conditions in their supply chain.”

Boohoo will provide the first update from its investigation alongside the publication of its half-year results in September.

Photo credit: Boohoo Group media gallery

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