Boohoo has hired Brian Leveson, the judge who oversaw the inquiry into Britain’s phone hacking scandal, to monitor its efforts to improve work conditions in its UK supply chain.
The fast-fashion group has been accused of tolerating widespread abuses of employment law by its UK suppliers, including workers being paid below the minimum wage.
A Boohoo-appointed investigation into the supply chain in September found the allegations were “well-founded and substantially true”, prompting the company to announce it would improve its governance and supply chain oversight and hire an independent person to oversee the changes.
“Boohoo has recognised that it must institute and embed change so that everyone involved in the group’s supply chain is treated fully in accordance with the law and the principles of ethical trading,” Sir Brian said.
Sir Brian came to prominence after he led an inquiry nearly a decade ago into press ethics.
The Manchester-based group said Sir Brian’s reports would be made available to the public to bring “transparency and further independence to the process”.
The group, which has promised to publish a list of its suppliers by March, said it had appointed KPMG to help with its “agenda for change” programme, adding that the consultants would work with its recently hired supply chain auditors Bureau Veritas and Verisio.
Mahmud Kamani, Boohoo chairman and co-founder, said he was “encouraged” by the progress made on improving the company’s supply chain, but did not cite specific examples.
Alison Levitt, the lawyer who led the review of Boohoo’s supply chain, had in her report questioned whether Mr Kamani took the problems seriously, arguing that some of his responses had been “a cause for concern”.
Her review looked at a sample of 62 of Boohoo’s unknown number of suppliers and found that only 7 per cent had a completely clean bill of health on areas such as recording workers’ hours, paying wages, health and safety violations and potential furlough fraud.
Last month, the Financial Times revealed that Boohoo’s longstanding auditor PwC had announced its intention to resign, citing the risks of continuing to work for the group.