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Boohoo hires Sir Brian Leveson to oversee supply chain overhaul

The fast-fashion retailer Boohoo has appointed Sir Brian Leveson, the retired judge who led the Leveson inquiry into the activities of the media, to oversee the firm’s overhaul of its supply chain after allegations of poor working practices.



graphical user interface, application, website: Photograph: Dado Ruvić/Reuters


© Provided by The Guardian
Photograph: Dado Ruvić/Reuters

An investigation by the Guardian found that factories in Leicester were failing to pay workers the minimum wage and were putting their health at risk during lockdown.

A damning independent review, conducted on behalf of the retailer by Alison Levitt QC, found that reports of failings and poor conditions in the company’s supply chain were “substantially true” and criticised the company’s “weak corporate governance”.

Levitt found that Boohoo’s monitoring of the factories was “inadequate”, and called the failure to assess the risk to workers during the coronavirus pandemic “inexcusable”.

Following the publication of the review, Boohoo released what it called its “agenda for change” programme to overhaul its use of garment manufacturing in the UK.

Leveson will report directly to Boohoo’s board and his reports will be published, which the retailer said would bring transparency and independence to the process. Leveson joins other independent organisations, including ethical audit and compliance specialists Verisio and Bureau Veritas, which are already working with Boohoo.



graphical user interface, website: Boohoo hit the headlines in the summer after investigations found factories in Leicester were failing to pay the minimum wage.


© Photograph: Dado Ruvić/Reuters
Boohoo hit the headlines in the summer after investigations found factories in Leicester were failing to pay the minimum wage.

Mahmud Kamani, the billionaire co-founder of Boohoo, said that he and the board were fully committed to the planned changes at the firm “with the appointments of Sir Brian Leveson and KPMG bringing independent oversight, additional expertise and further transparency to a programme that will help us on our journey to lead the fashion e-commerce market globally in a transparent manner.”

Kamani has also agreed to appear in front of MPs examining the environmental impact of fast fashion next month. The environmental audit committee originally tackled the subject in 2018, but ministers subsequently rejected its recommendations, which included a 1p per garment levy.

Philip Dunne, the EAC chair, said it had received 50 pieces of written evidence since the follow-up inquiry was announced in October. That information had guided who the committee had invited to appear, with representatives of other organisations including the British Retail Consortium and Wrap, the waste advisory body, also expected to answer questions.

“Employment, public health and safety laws must be enforced in the UK’s garment factories and we must reduce the amount of fashion waste we are producing as a country,” explained Dunne, who said the committee planned to make fresh recommendations on what could be done to improve sustainability and working conditions.

Leveson said Boohoo recognised that it needed to “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.

“I look forward to providing independent oversight of the Agenda for Change programme and to working with the Boohoo team, KPMG and the other independent experts to achieve this, while, at the same time, providing publicly available progress reports.”

The wave of negative publicity over working conditions at some of Boohoo’s Leicester suppliers does not appear to have dented shoppers’ enthusiasm for its clothing during the pandemic.

The firm reported in September that its sales over the previous six months had soared by 45%, well ahead of analysts’ expectations.

Greg Lawless, a retail analyst at Shore Capital, said: “Today’s news is another step in the right direction and highlights the need to effect real change at the company, which we believe will be welcomed by independent shareholders.

“We will watch developments closely and look for signs of both improved corporate governance and tangible changes to the operating mode.”

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