A director at Boohoo has said the clothing brand was ‘shocked,’ by reports of Uighur Muslims being forced to work in Chinese labour camps but claimed none of the firm’s suppliers have links to the Xinjiang region as he faced a grilling from MPs.
Andrew Reaney, group director of responsible sourcing, faced a committee of MPs forced labour in UK value chains less than two months after reports of low pay and poor working conditions at the brands Leicester’s company came to light.
A report published in September found ‘serious issues’ in its supply chain, relating to workers in Leicester.
But at today’s Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, Mr Reaney said the company had no links to Chinese labour camps forcing Uighur Muslims to work in the Xinjiang province.
Fashion brands including Boohoo, H&M and Nike denied any link to forced Uighur Muslim labour camps in the Xinjiang province of China, pictured, a high security facility at what is thought to be one of the ‘re-education’ camps in the region
Andrew Reaney, Boohoo’s group director of responsible sourcing, said the company was ‘shocked’ by claims of forced labour camps in Xinjiang, but said there was no link between the region and the company’s suppliers
Nike, H&M and North Face owner VF were also brought before MPs to deny any reports that products involving Uighur slave labour could be sold to UK consumers.
Mr Reaney told the committee: ‘We were quite shocked by the revelations around the Uighurs and what’s happening in the Xinjiang province.
‘We wrote to all our suppliers across the supply chain to confirm that we have no manufacturing or fabric links to that particular region.
‘That was done and all of our suppliers confirmed that they have no manufacturing or fabric links to that region.’
Boohoo was found to have issues over low pay and poor working conditions at one of its suppliers’ Leicester clothing factory, a report in September revealed
Bosses at Boohoo had known about the issues over low pay and poor working conditions at their Leicester clothes factories. Pictured: Mahmud Kamani (right), co-founder of Boohoo with his son Umar Kamani (left)
Boohoo bosses knew about ‘very serious issues’ at Leicester clothing factories MONTHS before scandal was exposed
Bosses at Boohoo had known about the issues over low pay and poor working conditions at their Leicester clothes factories for months before the scandal was exposed, a new report has revealed.
Alison Levitt QC was hired by Boohoo to review its business practices and she says that she found no evidence of any crimes being committed.
However, she did say that there was evidence of staff at the Leicester factories working in poor conditions for low pay.
She said: ‘From (at the very latest) December 2019, senior Boohoo directors knew for a fact that there were very serious issues about the treatment of factory workers in Leicester,’ Ms Levitt said.
‘Whilst it put in place a programme intended to remedy this, it did not move quickly enough.’
However, directors were aware of questions over its supply chain much earlier after reporters and politicians raised the issue.
In May 2018 the Financial Times published a story about ‘labour exploitation in Britain’s garment industry’ which questioned how Boohoo was able to sell dresses so cheaply.
Months later, in November 2018, MPs grilled then co-chief executive Carol Kane about the prices of its goods.
Mr Reaney stressed that the online retailer does ‘not knowingly source any yarn or fabric’ from the region, as MPs questioned auditing processes at the business following a row over working conditions in its UK supply chain.
Last month, the company published its full report by Alison Levitt QC, which identified ‘many failings’ but freed it from allegations of deliberately allowing poor conditions and low pay for garment workers.
‘It’s a matter of regret from the organisation that we obviously didn’t move as fast as we could have,’ Mr Reaney said.
‘The purpose of being here today and the Levitt report is to demonstrate our sincerity and commitment to absolute 100% supply chain transparency, irrespective of the source and region, whether its Leicester or whether its China.’
At the end of September Boohoo saw profits soar 51 per cent.
The figures show pre-tax profits jumped to £68.1 million in the six months to August 31, up from £45.2 million a year earlier, and Boohoo now expects annual sales to jump by 28 per cent to 32 per cent against the 25 per cent hike it previously pencilled in.
It also nudged up guidance for profit margins to around 10 per cent for the year from 9.5 per cent – 10 per cent previously.
Boohoo said robust trading continued into September in a ‘good start’ to the second half of its financial year.
David Savman, head of supply chain at H&M, said the Swedish-based retail group worked with accreditation groups for its supply chain which no longer use cotton from the region following the allegations.
‘When these serious allegations came up we made investigations into all of our suppliers,’ he told MPs.
‘We didn’t find any proof of any breach of our sustainability commitments, where we have very clear guidance of how our ethical processes should happen.’
Later in the committee session, Jaycee Pribulsky, vice president of global footwear sourcing and manufacturing at Nike, said the US group was ‘deeply concerned’ regarding the situation in the Chinese region.
She told MPs: ‘Nike does not source any raw cotton.
‘And regarding Xinjiang, Nike has confirmed with its suppliers that there are no spun yarns or textiles manufactured in the area in our products.’