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Boohoo, the growing fast fashion retail chain faced vehement protests from demonstrators, at an ethical fashion conference held in London by Source Fashion, owing to their alleged mistreatment of workers and absolutely gruelling working conditions. According to reliable sources, Boohoo has been consistently guilty of low-quality working conditions and low wages at its factories, across supply chains. Following the disclosures, Boohoo, which owns brands including Karen Millen and Nasty Gal, changed its governance, cut out hundreds of suppliers, and commissioned an independent review.
The panel headed by Cheryl Chung, Boohoo’s former global head of corporate affairs and 4 managers, were criticized by women from the audience, who stood up one by one and put forward many allegations against the brand. “How dare Boohoo take this platform to speak about ethics and industry collaboration,” a woman enquired; “Why aren’t your garment makers on this panel?”
Workspace, Wages and their Alleged Inadequacy
The protestors emphasized on the poor working conditions and wages in the factories at Leicester and Burnley. These included instances as to how people worked in drastic environs, without even proper toilet breaks or safety precautions; and how the work kept them on their toes all the time. The fact that labourers in the garment-making segment were paid way below the minimum wage bar, while CEO John Lyttle’s bonus added up to 200% of his salary, was also highlighted. However, Samuel Cliff, Boohoo’s head of ethical trading refuted all these claims.
The Brand’s Take
Boohoo’s take on ethical fashion was prominently based on sourcing ethically through industry collaborations. The panel discussed how close-knit their supply chains were and how workers at the manufacturing facility in Leicester were trained in responsible purchasing. Chung’s response to the allegations was – “Do we want to be challenged? Absolutely. Should every business be challenged? Absolutely. Do people have the right to free speech? Completely.”
Can Celebrity Endorsement Conflate Sustainability?
Boohoo is currently facing investigation by the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority over the marketing of its environmental credentials. Kourtney Kardashian Barker, reality TV artist and sustainable fashion influencer was Boohoo’s ambassador the previous year, which had also led to the brand being heavily critiqued.
Boohoo’s head of sustainability Lianne Pemberton, recalls the aforementioned appointment of Kourtney to have been “quite controversial”. However, the celeb’s fan following and resonation with Boohoo’s customer range made her highly eligible for the position, says Lianne.
Wrapping up the discussion, Pemberton said, “We’ve never claimed to be a sustainable business.” She went on to describe how achieving the tag of being sustainable was a continuous effort and that no fashion brand ever can claim to be absolutely sustainable in all their processes or activities.