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14 Jul 2020

The Guardian

Boohoo: Aberdeen Standard Investment sells majority of shares in fast fashion retailer following allegations of labour abuse in supply chains

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Inadequate in scope, timeliness and gravity.” The verdict from Aberdeen Standard Investment on Boohoo’s response to allegations of supply chain abuses was damning … the investment house … sold the majority of its shares.

… Boohoo hasn’t taken the obvious step of committing to an independent chair – a normal measure of boardroom accountability. Instead, Mahmud Kamani, founder and 12% shareholder, is still in the chairmanship…

…  Lesley Duncan, deputy head of equities, said the fund manager had lobbied Boohoo “over the years” to improve “supply chain transparency…” … “In the last few weeks our concerns have grown.”

… Supply chain issues are an obvious business risk for a fast-fashion business that sources around 40% of its garments from Leicester, a city where reports of labour exploitation … have been rife for years … but Boohoo’s job was to monitor its dozens of suppliers in the city with extreme prudence at all times.

Boohoo … [said] that its early investigation had not found evidence of suppliers paying workers £3.50 an hour, and that some of the claims made appeared to be inaccurate or misleading…

… Aberdeen Standard says it chivvied Boohoo to be more transparent, but until last week it wasn’t vocal with its concerns. This is a longstanding problem with fund managers who prefer behind-closed-doors “engagement” with boards on ethical issues…

The main finger, though, should point at public authorities. Whatever the Boohoo inquiry yields, most of the UK’s retail industry has shunned Leicester’s textile factories for years.

“Standards are higher in Bangladesh than Leicester, and so is the auditing,” said one retailer privately.