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Boohoo publishes UK supplier list as it moves towards a transparent supply chain, and launches sustainability plan

boohoo: upsetting results for fast fashion retailer

Boohoo has published its UK supplier list following eight months in which it has audited most its suppliers at least twice. A global supplier list is to be published by September 25.

The UK supplier list has been published as part of Boohoo’s pledge to make its supply chain more transparent.  During 2020, Boohoo Group responded to newspaper headlines that workers in some Leicester factories making its clothes were both underpaid and unprotected from Covid-19 by commissioning QC Alison Levitt to lead an investigation into its UK supply chain and by appointing senior judge Sir Brian Leveson to oversee its Agenda for Change programme.

The online retail group today says it has stopped doing business with “a number of manufacturers who were unable to demonstrate the high standard of transparency required, despite being provided with opportunities to address any issues identified in the auditing process”. However, existing contracts are being honoured before the relationship comes to an end. Boohoo has previously said it will no longer use 64 suppliers as a result of its investigations and today it confirmed that number remains current. Today it also says it is working with suppliers to bring CMT (cut, make, trim) units in-house, with the effect of consolidating several suppliers into one.

One supplier that has stayed on the list, Sajid Esa of 5th Avenue Clothing, says: “For those of us in Leicester who take pride in the clothing manufacturing industry, the last year has been really tough. We are grateful for boohoo sticking by UK manufacturers and taking a stance with an agenda for change. With our joint efforts, all the good suppliers are confident that this will start building Leicester to be a great manufacturing hub. We hope that the work Boohoo has done gives other retailers the confidence to begin buying British once again.”

Leveson says in his latest report to the Boohoo Group board: “Although a consequence of its failure to exercise sufficient care in the past, it is clear that few, if any, companies undertaking due diligence of their supply chains have gone to the lengths undertaken by Boohoo and for which it deserves credit.”

Boohoo Group chief executive John Lyttle says: “This is the not the end of a project for us at Boohoo but the beginning of a new way of working with our suppliers. We are driving positive change in the industry and want to play our part in rebuilding a vibrant manufacturing base in Leicester, one that offers good employment and great prospects for the workers and the industry in Leicester as a whole.

“The publication of our UK Supply Chain List marks another step on our journey towards greater transparency and embedding positive change, not only in our own organisation, but through the wider network of businesses that make up our supply chain.”

The publication comes alongside Boohoo’s new Upfront group sustainability plan that promises to face up to the environment and social challenges that now face the fashion sector. In it, the group promises to make its clothes with more sustainable materials and design and less waste and packaging. It promises to improve its supply chain transparency, standards and management, and to run its business responsibly, from tackling climate change to responsible marketing. As part of that it says it will use discounting strategies to democratise fashion, giving customers “access to on trend items no matter what their budget”. It adds: “Discounting is a marketing investment that we make and is incorporated into our costing model. It isn’t about reducing the price we pay suppliers.”

Lyttle says: “Through our Sustainability Strategy we are committing to ambitious targets across production, supply and governance to ensure the business is ready for the future.” 

Boohoo now owns a growing number of fashion brands, having made repeated acquisitions in recent years. Boohoo and Karen Millen are ranked Top100 in RXUK Top500 research, and Oasis is Top50, while Coast, Warehouse and NastyGal are Top250. Since the latest Top500 list was produced, the retail group has also acquired Dorothy Perkins, Wallis and Burton.

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