At a London event, Boohoo Group Plc discussed ethical clothing but was met with protesters angry at the company’s track record on workers’ rights.
Source Fashion was a conference that brought together wholesalers and retailers, and senior representatives of a British online retailer spoke there. The workers in Boohoo’s factories and supply chain have been accused of receiving low wages and working in deplorable conditions in the past.
Some women in the audience rose to their feet at the beginning of a panel discussion, and after venting their frustrations, security escorted them out.
Former Boohoo global head of corporate affairs Cheryl Chung, who stated she left the company last year, presided over the panel of four managers from Boohoo.
A woman yelled, “How dare Boohoo take this platform to speak about ethics and industry collaboration!” Why don’t you have any tailors on this committee?
Samuel Cliff, Boohoo’s head of ethical trading, was on the panel to refute the protester’s claim that the company’s garment-makers in Leicester were paid less than the minimum wage.
In 2020, some of Boohoo’s UK garment suppliers were found to be paying less than minimum wage and skimping on safety precautions at factories in Leicester, which led to a labour scandal that embroiled the company. After the news broke, Boohoo, the parent company of Karen Millen and Nasty Gal, restructured its management, severed ties with hundreds of vendors, and hired an outside firm to conduct an investigation.
A report from The Times from last year claimed that workers at Boohoo’s Burnley facility were subjected to abusive working conditions, including having to walk the distance of a half marathon during their shifts. In an official statement, Boohoo denied the allegations.
Discretionary Use of Language
Another demonstrator compared the wages of Boohoo’s CEO, John Lyttle, to those of garment workers and expressed outrage that Lyttle stood to gain a bonus equal to 200% of his salary. Another griped that they weren’t allowed to take frequent bathroom breaks at the Boohoo warehouse in Burnley.
Chung requested that the panellists be given the opportunity to address the demonstrators.
Do we seek tension and difficulty? Absolutely. Whether or not every company should be tested. Absolutely. Can people say what they want without being punished? “Totally,” she proclaimed.
Manchester-based Boohoo centred the conversation on how businesses can work together to improve their ethical sourcing practises. According to the company, it has been working closely with its suppliers and has been teaching its employees in its manufacturing facility in Leicester, which opened last year, about responsible purchasing practises.
The Competition and Markets Authority in the United Kingdom is looking into the claims made by three companies, one of which is Boohoo, regarding their commitment to environmental sustainability.
Kourtney Kardashian Barker’s appointment as an ambassador for the brand last year “with a focus on sustainability” was met with backlash from some customers and activists. The reality star is releasing two lines of clothing and producing videos about eco-friendly clothing for social media.
Boohoo’s head of sustainability, Lianne Pemberton, said on Tuesday that the decision to hire Kardashian Barker was “quite controversial.” She still has a “huge following,” and Boohoo customers can relate to her, she said.
According to Pemberton, the company’s efforts are more of a “continuous project” than anything else. That they are truly sustainable is a claim I doubt any fashion label can make.