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Fashion retail giants Next, Zalando and ASOS have just pulled fast fashion brand Boohoo off their sites after allegations of worker’s exploitation, low pay and hazardous working conditions at the company’s supplier factory in Leicester in the United Kingdom. An official investigation has now been launched by the Boohoo and is yet another blow to the tainted fast fashion industry that has fallen out of favour with conscious consumers in recent years.
The three major online fashion retailers have just suspended Boohoo from their platforms after a report revealed that factories that supply the brand pay as little as £3.50 (US$4.39) per hour, well below the hourly minimum wage of £8.72 (US$10.94). The allegations, which were exposed by campaign group Labour Behind the Label, also detailed that Boohoo’s suppliers have failed to protect workers from coronavirus and forced people to work throughout lockdown despite some reporting experiencing symptoms.
Joining Next, ASOS and Zalando to drop the brand include British e-commerce site Very and multinational online retail giant Amazon. Within just two days of the claims, Boohoo, previously a US$6.27 billion company that also owns fast fashion labels Nasty Gal and Pretty Little Thing, has seen US$1.8 billion wiped out from its value.
“We expect our partners to apply similar fundamental priorities and will distance ourselves from those who don’t,” said Zalando in a statement.
Since the reports emerged, Boohoo has denied responsibility over the workers’ rights violations of its suppliers, and said that they are now launching a third-party compliance investigation into the claims. In response, online retailers have said they will await the results of the investigation into Boohoo’s supply chain before acting upon any future partnerships with the brand.
Leicester, a city in England’s East Midlands region, is home to an estimated 1,000 garment factories, of which around 75% to 80% of clothes produced are supplied for Boohoo, according to The Guardian.
The news is yet another blow for Boohoo and the wider fast fashion industry, who are still reeling from the reputational fallout for not only its unethical supply chain and human rights violations, but also its enormous environmental footprint.
Consumers, increasingly conscious of the industry’s enormous contributions to greenhouse gases, water pollution and waste, have in recent years edged towards more sustainable fashion options. The demand has seen even mainstream players such as H&M and Walmart shift towards recycled and resale initiatives in a bid to retain customers.
Over the course of the coronavirus crisis, other fashion labels have also had to grapple with public relations blunders, notably reports that called out brands for cancelling orders from factories in Asia that have either been completed or already in the manufacturing stage.
As a result, many garment workers in the region – who earn minimum wage incomes and are already among the most vulnerable groups to the coronavirus – are facing the threat of abject poverty alongside the risk of contracting a deadly disease. Some of the brands leaving thousands of workers without income or severance pay include Primark, Bestseller, Marks & Spencer, Walmart and JCPenney.
Lead image courtesy of Boohoo.