Tuesday 6 October 2020 11:38 am

MPs probe fast fashion industry after Boohoo's Leicester factory scandal

The fast fashion industry will be scrutinised by a committee of MPs in the wake of Boohoo’s Leicester clothing factory scandal, after the government dismissed most of the recommendations of an initial inquiry in 2018. 

The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) has today launched a follow-up inquiry into sustainability and working conditions within the fashion industry after an independent report found evidence of low pay and poor working conditions within Boohoo’s supply chain. 

Read more: Major Boohoo shareholders fail to denounce CEO over Leicester factory conditions

The inquiry, which is accepting evidence until 13 November, will also probe the environmental impact of fast fashion, just two years on from its first investigation into the industry. 

Most of the committee’s recommendations, such as due diligence checks across fashion supply chains to root out forced or child labour, were rejected by the government in 2019, the EAC said.

The issue is back in the spotlight following reports in the Sunday Times of low pay and poor working conditions at Leicester clothing factories used by fast fashion giant Boohoo. 

A subsequent review conducted by Alison Levitt QC found that the allegations were “not merely well-founded but substantially true”. 

It also revealed that the company’s monitoring of its Leicester supply chain was “inadequate”, which was “attributable to weak corporate governance”.

In response, Boohoo chief executive John Lyttle said the group would implement “necessary enhancements to its supplier audit and compliance procedures, and the board’s oversight of these matters will increase significantly”.

However Leicester West MP Liz Kendall yesterday wrote to major Boohoo shareholders Invesco, Jupiter and Baillie Gifford, calling on them to remove Lyttle and executive chairman Mahmud Kamani.

EAC chairman Philip Dunn MP said today: “Two years, four fashion seasons and billions of tonnes of harmful emissions from textile production later, my committee has decided to revisit its fashion sustainability work.

“The fashion industry has a major environmental footprint – from the extraordinary amount of water to create cotton and polyester, to the sheer scale of waste with many items being worn once and thrown away. Our thirst for the latest trends is simply unsustainable.

Read more: Boohoo is on the wrong side of history when it comes to business ethics and sustainability

“But, as we found two years ago, this inquiry goes beyond the harmful impact to the environment. Accusations of labour market exploitation in the UK remain, with poor working conditions and illegally low wages.

“Two years on, I hope there have been some improvements in the fashion industry. We will be unearthing whether this is the case, and what more needs to be done to secure our goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.”  

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