UK's Boohoo urged to link fashion bosses' bonuses to improved worker rights

by Sonia Elks | @SoniaElks | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Friday, 5 March 2021 00:01 GMT

FILE PHOTO: A woman poses with a smartphone showing the Boohoo app in front of the Boohoo logo on display in this illustration taken September 30, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

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British lawmakers call on fashion retailer Boohoo to fix worker abuses in its supply chain

By Sonia Elks

LONDON, March 5 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Fashion brand Boohoo should link bosses' hefty bonuses to improved workers' rights instead of simply chasing growth, British lawmakers said on Friday, following reports of low pay and dire conditions among workers in its supply chains.

Parliament's Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) wrote to chairman Mahmud Kamani about plans to pay up to 150 million pounds ($209 million) to Boohoo's founders and top executives if the online firm's share price rises 66% over three years.

"We are asking Boohoo to put its money where its mouth is and link the multi-million pound bonuses it has lined up for its bosses to the achievement of its ethical and environmental pledges," said committee chairman Philip Dunne in a statement.

Boohoo, which sells own-brand clothing, accessories and beauty products targeted at 16- to 40-year-olds, did not immediately reply to requests for comment.

The advent of fast fashion, with consumers constantly buying and discarding clothing, has fuelled the risk of worker abuses in global supply chains as factories come under greater pressure from leading brands, labour activists say.

Boohoo came under fire after a media report in July said factory workers in Leicester in central England, who were making clothes destined for Boohoo, were paid as little as 3.50 pounds ($4.39) an hour, well below the legal minimum wage.

The group quickly commissioned an independent review of its supply chain and in September accepted all of its recommendations, and appointed retired judge Brian Leveson to oversee reforms.

Boohoo had to defend its supplier practices again on Tuesday after a Sky News report said the 4 billion pound company faced the possibility of a U.S. import ban due to allegations over the use of slave labour in English supplier factories.

Friday's letter follows Kamani's appearance before the British committee in December, when he vowed to fix failings which he said occurred because Boohoo had not developed processes quickly enough to keep up with its rapid growth.

The EAC launched a new inquiry seeking to end the era of throwaway fashion in October, citing concerns about its environmental impact and factory conditions after the government in 2019 rejected its recommendations from an earlier probe.

The EAC's letter said that, despite "positive steps", Kamani's comments in December "did little to dispel the impression that the company has been focused on rapid growth regardless of the social or environmental costs".

"A move to link growth incentives to measurable ... criteria - such as the environmental sustainability of your products and the welfare of workers - would demonstrate genuine commitment to environmental and social responsibility," it added.

($1 = 0.7157 pounds)

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(Reporting by Sonia Elks @soniaelks; Editing by Katy Migiro. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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