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Boohoo appoints retired judge Sir Brian Leveson to oversee supply chain problems

By Simon Neville, PA City Editor
·3-min read

Boohoo has appointed senior retired judge Sir Brian Leveson to oversee the online fashion brand’s attempts to move on from a supply chain scandal that rocked the firm earlier this year.

Sir Brian will report directly to the board and publish reports into progress made under the company’s Agenda for Change programme.

He has also appointed legal and enforcement specialists to make sure the fast-fashion firm’s supply chain “is treated fully in accordance with the law and principles of ethical trading”.

Earlier this year, following allegations that some factories in the UK working for boohoo were paying staff as little as £3.50 an hour, the company commissioned an independent report.

Alison Levitt QC, who wrote the report, found “serious issues” in the supply chain and said that managers were aware of the problems but too slow to act.

She cleared the business from allegations of deliberately allowing poor conditions and low pay for garment workers. Following publication, boohoo’s auditors PwC quit.

Sir Brian said: “Boohoo has recognised that it must 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 appointment comes less than a month after Boohoo chiefs, alongside Nike, H&M and North Face owner VF, were hauled in front of MPs over allegations of Uighur Muslims used for forced labour of garments in the Xinjiang region of China.

Boohoo said it was shocked and never knowingly sourced material or yarn from the region.

Mahmud Kamani, group executive chairman of Boohoo, said he was “fully committed” to the programme.

He added: “I am encouraged by the progress that has been made to date by our teams since setting out our Agenda for Change programme in September.

“Myself and the board are fully committed to this programme, 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.”

Boohoo has been one of the big winners from the Covid-19 pandemic, with shoppers turning to online in droves.

At the end of September, the company revealed pre-tax profits jumped to £68.1 million in the six months to August 31, up from £45.2 million a year earlier.

The company said at the time it expected profits to beat expectations.

Greg Lawless, 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.”