Fast fashion giant Boohoo has once again found itself responding to reports of poor working conditions at one of its UK warehouses.
Workers at the group’s site in Burnley, Lancashire say they work like “slaves” and are subjected to racism, sexual harassment, and ill-fitting safety equipment, according to an undercover investigation by The Times published this week.
Sweltering working temperatures can reach up to 32C in the night, according to the report, with an ambulance called to the site once a month on average.
Responding to the report in a statement, a Boohoo spokesperson said the group takes “every claim very seriously”, but said it “does not believe the picture painted is reflective of the working environment at our Burnley warehouse”.
They said: “Making sure our people are safe and comfortable in their workplace is our highest priority. That is why more and more of our colleagues are choosing to stay here for longer, with our turnover rate continuing to fall year on year.
“We offer generous rates of pay, well over and above the National Living Wage, with additional benefits including subsidised private healthcare. Through our employee engagement programme our colleagues tell us that they are happy with their working environment, feel valued and feel listened to.”
Boohoo back under fire
This is the latest in a spate of scandals to hit Boohoo in recent years, the most notable being the one in July 2020 when a report by The Sunday Times claimed poor working conditions and illegal wages at some of its suppliers in Leicester.
Boohoo subsequently launched an independent review of its UK supply chain which found “many failings”, and which led it to cut ties with hundreds of suppliers.
The group, which has become one of the faces of the increasingly vilified fast fashion industry, drew widespread criticism for greenwashing in September when it appointed Kardashian Barker as its “sustainability ambassador”.
Critics pointed simultaneously to Barker’s lack of background in sustainability, and the broad vagueness of what her role would entail.
A power outage pre-show at the reveal of the collaboration “may have been a sign from the climate gods expressing their concerns over what is essentially an exercise in greenwashing”, an earlier opinion piece by FashionUnited notes.
Boohoo enjoyed soaring revenue and profit during the pandemic as its business model of churning out huge quantities of low price fashion benefited immensely from shoppers’ increased shift to online channels during lockdowns, and burgeoning demand for comfortable, casual fashion.
The group, which owns brands Nasty Gal, PrettyLittleThing, Misspap, Karen Millen and Coast, saw revenue increase by 14 percent to 1.98 billion pounds in the year to February.
But that growth has slowed more recently, with the group issuing a profit warning in September as consumer demand slumped and revenue fell 10 percent in the six months to August.