Thursday 5 November 2020 1:18 pm

Boohoo and Nike grilled over supply chain links to slave labour in China

MPs this morning grilled fashion firms, including Boohoo and Nike, over potential supply chain links to slave labour and exploitation in China. 

The retailers’ sourcing and sustainability bosses were today called in to give evidence to the Business Select Committee, as part of an investigation into the extent to which the products of forced labour and exploitations of Uyghurs in Xinjiang are reaching the supply chains of UK businesses. 

Read more: Boohoo takes £775m hit as auditor stands down

It has been estimated that 1m Uyghur Muslims are being held in internment camps in the northern Chinese province.

Boohoo group director of responsible sourcing Andrew Reaney told the committee that the fast fashion firm, which was recently embroiled in a scandal over working conditions in Leicester garment factories, does not “knowingly directly or indirectly manufacture within that region”. 

He said the company was “shocked” at reports of slave labour in Xinjiang and admitted the findings of poor working practices in Leicester were a “matter of more than regret”. 

Boohoo is “100 per cent committed to complete transparency” in its supply chain, Reaney said. 

The company has hired Bureau Veritas to map its global supply chain. 

Boohoo will be scrutinised by the Environmental Audit Committee in a separate probe into working conditions in Leicester after an independent review found that monitoring of its supply chain in the city was “inadequate”, which was “attributable to weak corporate governance”.

Read more: H&M, Amazon and Boohoo among retailers to be quizzed by MPs over Uyghur slave labour links

Meanwhile, Nike vice president for global footwear sourcing and manufacturing Jaycee Pribulsky addressed allegations that the sportswear giant used a factory staffed by Uyghur workers. 

A report by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute found earlier this year that Nike was the primary customer of Taekwang, a shoe manufacturer. 

The ASPI report said “the Xinjiang workers are mostly Uyghur women from Hotan and Kashgar prefectures…that the Chinese government has described as ‘backward’ and ‘disturbed by religious extremism”. 

Read more: MPs probe fast fashion industry after Boohoo’s Leicester factory scandal

Pribulsky said Nike worked with the supplier, which stopped hiring workers from the region by November last year. 

In August, a third party verified that there are no workers from Xinjiang in the facility, she added.

“This situation is unprecedented in modern supply chains, what we have done is to continue to conduct ongoing diligence”, Pribulsky said. 

Read more: Leicester factory scandal: Boohoo supplier involved in ‘multi-million-pound’ fraud scheme

The committee last month wrote to 14 firms to question them over potential supply chain links to slave labour in the region, including Gap, Ikea, Zara and M&S.

It also asked sportswear brands Adidas and Puma to give evidence, as well as upmarket brands Victoria’s Secret, Stella McCartney and the North Face.