Boohoo still faces challenges as supply chain report series completes
Boohoo continues to encounter “challenges and difficulties” in the fast-fashion retail giant's bid to clean up historical supply chain issues.
In the fifth and final report covering the 'Agenda for Change’ programme that tracks the progress of the company against the recommendations laid out by Alison Levitt QC in 2020, report author Sir Brian Leveson admitted some areas were still a “work in progress” and pointed to “complexity” and “challenges” in overseeing suppliers that operate overseas.
However, he also acknowledged the group has made “substantial changes” to its corporate governance and become more transparent about its suppliers.
In his summing up, Sir Brian said he would “not pretend” the conclusion of the Agenda For Change programme “represents the completion of each aspect of each recommendation made in the review.”
While many goals had been completed, others were in progress “but still require continued effort to bring to fruition.”
He pointed to its “ambitious IT programmes” that have been undertaken and are in the process of implementation and in relation to the group’s ambition for Thurmaston Lane as a centre of excellence for garment manufacture in Leicester.
He added: “Furthermore, even if all the recommendations had been completed (or when they are), it cannot be said that it would represent the end of the process.
“The retailer must be prepared to demonstrate that “it has exercised due diligence to ensure that legal and ethical standards have been maintained by all both in the business itself or, just as important, in its supply chain.”
Sir Brian was first appointed to provide oversight of the group’s Agenda for Change programme in November 2020. Boohoo had launched the scheme after allegations emerged of ill treatment of staff in its Leicester supply chain earlier that year.
In an independent review, senior lawyer Alison Levitt QC said the fast fashion chain knew about “serious issues” with the treatment of factory workers in Leicester, but failed to move quickly enough to do anything about it.
Since then, Boohoo has pledged to improve its supply chain and work on responsible purchasing practices, sustainability, and ethical compliance.
Boohoo’s suppliers now have to have independent approval on their sourcing and ethical compliance.
Boohoo opened its first owned factory in Leicester earlier this year, in a step to move on from the scandal of two years ago.
The fashion retailer said its new 32,000 sq ft factory in Thurmaston Lane, Leicester, was “proof of its commitment to the city of Leicester and ethical British manufacturing.” The new site has created 180 local jobs and has the capacity to make 25,000 garments per week.
Sir Brian added: “In the last 17 months, Boohoo has travelled a considerable distance in relation to most (if not all) aspects of corporate governance and its business model while, at the same time, addressing the same issues concerned with the pandemic as have been faced by society in general.”
In his previous report, he highlighted progress across Boohoo’s work in its supply chain, responsible purchasing practices, sustainability, and ethical compliance as well as modern slavery training programmes.
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