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Boohoo CEO John Lyttle defends decision not to step down

By Huw Hughes

12 Aug 2021

People

Image: Boohoo

Boohoo CEO John Lyttle has defended his decision not to step down amid allegations of poor working conditions across the fashion giant’s UK supply chain.

In an interview with BBC Radio 5, Lyttle said resigning from the helm of the group would not be the right decision to make, and that it would slow its progress in improving its supply chain practices.

“If I’d have resigned, it would have set it back - in terms of time - to do what we needed to do,” he said.

Lyttle has faced calls for his resignation following various reports of unsafe working conditions and minimum wage breaches in some of the factories in Leicester that supply clothing to the group.

A Sunday Times investigation last year alleged that certain factories were forcing employees to work while sick with Covid-19 and paying just 3.50 pounds per hour.

An independent review subsequently launched by Boohoo found “many failings” in its UK supply chain, leading to the group cutting ties with hundreds of factories.

Lyttle told BBC 5 Radio that Boohoo had “not seen evidence” of workers being paid under the minimum wage, but said the company could “level up our audit and investigation to ensure those workers are getting paid”.

He also refuted claims that Boohoo creates “throwaway” clothing. “Our data doesn’t suggest people are buying every day or buying once and wearing something new,” he said.

He said the business has a “clear strategy” for becoming more sustainable. But he said the group’s sustainability targets could take some time as there were “lots of pieces still to answer”.

“They’re not going to be fixed in six and 12 months,” he said. “It’s the same 2030 timeframe as combustible engines.”

Lyttle said 20 percent of Boohoo’s ranges will be sustainable in the autumn, with that number rising to 40 percent by next spring/summer.

But the company has faced criticism over what it means precisely by “sustainable”.

On Thursday, Boohoo announced plans to create 5,000 new jobs in the UK over the next five years as part of a new investment strategy.

The group will invest 500 million pounds into the strategy, which will include the creation of additional warehouse space and improved technologies to bolster its profits.