Boohoo has defended practices in its UK supply chain following media speculation that the fast-fashion giant could face a US import ban following allegations of slave labour.
US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has seen sufficient evidence to launch an investigation into the company following the submission of two petitions from British lawyer Duncan Jepson, Sky News reports.
Jepson, who runs Liberty Shared, a campaign group against modern-day slavery, claims Boohoo is not doing enough to stop forced labour in the Leicester factories that produce clothing for the fast-fashion giant.
“The evidence of Boohoo and forced labour is quite compelling. I think it will be a wake-up call for British institutions about how they’re handling modern slavery enforced labour, particularly in a community like Leicester East,” Jepson told Sky News.
“What we’d all like, those of us interested in improving labour conditions, is for Boohoo to really get to grips with governance of their supply chain to ensure there is no wage theft and people have proper contracts.
“It must look at all 11 indicators the International Labour Organisation sets out for forced labour and see there is compliance with those.”
Manchester-based Boohoo replied to the allegations, saying it had not received any correspondence from CBP and was unaware of any investigation.
It said it has been “working closely with UK enforcement bodies” over the past eight months and insisted if it discovered “any suggestion of modern-day slavery it would immediately disclose this to the relevant authorities”.
Boohoo said in a statement: “The group is confident in the actions it is taking to ensure that all of its products meet the CBP criteria on preventing the product of forced labour entering the US (or any of its markets).
“Boohoo continues to fulfil orders to customers in the US across all of its brands. The group will work with any competent authority to provide assurance that products from its supply chain meet the required standard.”
In September, Boohoo concluded an independent review into its UK supply chain following an undercover investigation in July by The Sunday Times that exposed poor working conditions and illegal pay at Boohoo’s suppliers.
The review found “many failings” in the factories of some of its suppliers but ultimately stated that there was “no evidence that the company itself or its officers have committed any criminal offences”.
When publishing the results of the independent review, Boohoo announced its Agenda for Change programme in which it set out six steps to enhance its supplier audit and compliance procedures.
Boohoo said that since the review was published, its supply chain in Leicester, and oversight of it, has been “significantly improved and strengthened”.
Improvements included the removal of 64 UK suppliers that did not meet the group’s standards on the levels of transparency required and the establishment of a supply chain compliance committee.