Boohoo has been ordered by the home secretary to review its buying practices and increase transparency in its supply chain to “regain public trust”.
Priti Patel has written to the online fashion giant’s chief executive John Lyttle demanding that it takes more action to work with its suppliers to ensure UK garment workers were being treated fairly.
It comes after a damning report accused the brand of fuelling modern slavery in the UK, detailing how one factory in Leicester creating garments for Boohoo was paying its workers far less than minimum wage.
While Boohoo has cut ties with the suppliers in question and launched an independent review into its supply chain, Patel said this didn’t go far enough and urged the brand to be more transparent about its working practices to ensure there could be “effective public scrutiny” of non-compliant suppliers.
This seemed to be a direct response to a letter Lyttle sent to Patel in July urging the government to impose a “Fit to Trade” licensing scheme to vet UK suppliers and ensure they were “meeting their legal obligations to their employees”.
The home secretary has now effectively told Lyttle that the responsibility of vetting suppliers falls squarely on retailers’ shoulders.
“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,” Patel said.
“It is now more important than ever before that businesses step up and take responsibility for conditions in their supply chains.”
Patel added that she was “deeply concerned” by “any potential role the fast fashion industry may be playing in fuelling alleged criminal, inhumane and abusive practices in Leicester’s garment sector”.
Boohoo said it had already updated Patel on the findings of its ongoing independent review and looked forward to discussing “how the government and industry can act together to ensure that Made in Britain is a label of pride for all”.