We did not respond to this enquiry, as we had concerns that it wasn't sufficiently rigorous, and was asking limited questions.
The problems in Leicester have existed, and been common knowledge, for more than a decade. Alison Levitt seems at pains to emphasise that boohoo management took positive action from 2019 to address these issues, but she does not comment upon their operations in previous years when orders were increasing and profits were rolling in whilst media and auditors reported continued problems.
Can we really trust all elements of this enquiry, when boohoo refused to grant access to Board emails? The assertion in the Executive Summary that no evidence of criminal activity was uncovered conflicts with the reports made of a meeting on 16 December 2019 at boohoo's offices, mentioned on page 86 of the full report, at which Leon Reed, Verisio's Managing Director, told boohoo that he had identified "criminal activity and ridiculously poor conditions."
We have found no mention of the valuable role of trade unions in preventing the exploitation of workers, and while the recommendation for greater supply chain transparency is welcome, boohoo's continuing refusal to engage in any kind of dialogue with trade unions, despite repeated approaches, is disappointing.
It’s easy to blame suppliers in these situations, but the behaviours of factory managers are often shaped by the business practices of the brand. Whilst blame is passed around, the workers continue to suffer. Now we hear that sourcing operations are being moved out of this Leicester spotlight, to Morocco or Turkey where there may be less attention. So instead of improving conditions for workers who have already sacrificed so much, they simply lose their jobs altogether.
ETI, is working with the Apparel & General Merchandise Public/Private Partnership, bringing together many stakeholders involved in the UK Garment Industry including brands, trade unions, community groups, local politicians and enforcement bodies to try to bring about meaningful change in Leicester. We hope boohoo will recognise the significance of its presence in this area and play a leading role in bringing about positive change for workers in Leicester.