"Not good for them. OK, for me." says Mahmud Kamani, co-founder and executive chairman of Boohoo Group, when asked about Boohoo suppliers' situation by the undercover BBC Panorama investigative reporter Emma Lowther.
A three-year BBC Panorama investigation shows that Boohoo has broken the promises made in 2020.
Promise #1: We Are Fair
"I just lie [to suppliers to drive prices lower and lower]." says a Boohoo worker.
"If we can't improve sales, we start asking for discounts because this helps us profit more." says another Boohoo worker.
BBC Panorama investigation has shown that Boohoo staff received complaints from suppliers due to price cuts, including a 10% discount that one supplier had not agreed to. The suppliers demanded the discount be removed urgently to avoid loss. It is unclear how the dispute was resolved. But at the end of the day, Boohoo cited significant cost inflation and maintained affordable prices for customers.
Justice In Fashion's (JIF) in-person meetings with manufacturers and local business leaders in Leicester reflect an opposing reality to the fair business claims made by Boohoo. To overcome the hostile business practices causing harm to garment workers and suppliers, JIF collaborated with stakeholders and connected local government and business development experts, leading to the formation of the Apparel & Textile Manufacturers Federation (ATMF), a UK community interest company and trade association.
Promise #2: Realistic Timescales
"Nothing gets approved unless it's manufactured six weeks and under." - a Boohoo employee.
Another promise that BBC Panorama investigation has discovered to be broken in the harshest terms, especially for garment workers. Along with the six-week rule, Boohoo introduced a 5% price cut penalty each week an order is late. According to the leading figures in ethical manufacturing, a six-week manufacturing period is too short and would cause downward pressure on garment workers working for Boohoo suppliers.
"The factories put so much pressure to get so much work done in so many hours. If we don't get them ready, they shout at us. I start crying because they put so much pressure on us." said an anonymous garment worker employed by a Boohoo supplier.
The Justice In Fashion team has always been aware of garment worker exploitation and unethical working conditions due to the bottom-up approach of our community engagement initiatives. As of the 5th of October 2023, the findings of JIF Leicester Advice Clinics suggest that our team have intervened in 26 cases of worker exploitation in Leicester’s garment supply chain.
Promise #3: Better Transparency
"I subcontract everything out. I'm a lot cheaper than anyone else." says Andy Habbot, a businessman hired by Mahmud Kamani himself to increase profits.
In 2020, Boohoo told the world that the company prohibited subcontracting in its UK supply chain, asking all the suppliers to bring manufacturing in-house.
BBC Panorama interview shows otherwise, proving that the subcontracting is still an active part of the Boohoo supply chain. Justice In Fashion's years-long engagement with garment workers of Leicester also supports the findings of the BBC Panorama investigative team.
As the JIF Managing Director, Jennifer Wascak, JD knows first-hand the impact Boohoo’s unethical buying practices have had on garment workers in Leicester, UK.
“Over the past two years, we’ve seen a steady increase in the number of garment workers laid off from jobs they’ve worked for years with no notice and often being owed back pay. With nothing left to lose, they are now sharing their experiences, such as being paid minimum wage on paper but then being required to withdraw their salaries in cash and pay part of it back to their employers. Now, most garment jobs in Leicester are gone anyway, and there is no remedy for workers to receive the money they have lost over the years. Manufacturers couldn’t afford to stay in business because brands like Boohoo were not paying the cost of production. So the food bank queues get longer and longer.”
Disclaimer: All the quotes in this post are directly taken from BBC Panorama's "Boohoo's Broken Promises" episode.