Protesters Target Boohoo at Ethical Fashion Event in London

Boohoo Group Plc was confronted by protesters angry at its record over workers’ rights when the fast fashion chain attempted to discuss ethical clothing at an event in London.

Senior representatives of the British online retailer were speaking at Source Fashion, a conference connecting suppliers with retail buyers. Boohoo has previously faced accusations of low wages and poor conditions at its factories or in its supply chain.

At the start of a panel event, several women stood one by one from the audience and shouted criticism before being led out by security staff.

The panel, comprising four managers from Boohoo, was chaired by Cheryl Chung, Boohoo’s former global head of corporate affairs who said she left the company last year.

“How dare Boohoo take this platform to speak about ethics and industry collaboration,” shouted one woman. “Why aren’t your garment makers on this panel?”

The protester said Boohoo’s garment-makers in Leicester were paid below the minimum wage, a claim denied by Samuel Cliff, Boohoo’s head of ethical trading, who was on the panel.

Boohoo was at the centre of a labour scandal in 2020 when some of the company’s UK garment suppliers were found to be paying less than minimum wage while skimping on safety precautions at factories in Leicester. Boohoo, which owns brands including Karen Millen and Nasty Gal, overhauled its governance following the revelations, cut off hundreds of suppliers and commissioned an independent review.

Last year an investigation by The Times said that staff at Boohoo’s Burnley facility were forced to work in gruelling conditions, walking sometimes the equivalent of a half-marathon per shift. Boohoo refuted the claims at the time.

Free Speech

Another protester complained about garment workers’ pay in comparison with Boohoo chief executive officer John Lyttle who could receive a bonus of 200 percent of his salary under a pay plan. Another complained that workers in Boohoo’s warehouse in Burnley aren’t permitted to take frequent toilet breaks.

Chung asked for the panelists to be permitted to speak and respond to the protesters.

“Do we want to be challenged? Absolutely. Should every business be challenged? Absolutely. Do people have the right to free speech? Completely,” she said.

Manchester-based Boohoo focused the discussion on industry collaboration to source more ethically. The company said it is working closely with its suppliers and added that employees at its manufacturing facility which opened in Leicester last year are taught about responsible purchasing.


Boohoo is currently one of three brands being investigated by the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority over the marketing of its environmental credentials.

The company also came in for criticism when it appointed Kourtney Kardashian Barker as an ambassador last year “with a focus on sustainability.” The reality TV star is delivering two clothing collections while also recording social media content relating to sustainable fashion.

The decision to appoint Kardashian Barker was “quite controversial,” said Lianne Pemberton, Boohoo’s head of sustainability, on Tuesday. Still, the US celebrity has a “huge following” and was chosen because she resonates with Boohoo customers, she added.

“We’ve never claimed to be a sustainable business,” said Pemberton, describing its efforts as an ongoing project. “I don’t think any fashion brand can say they’re truly sustainable.”

Learn more:

Boohoo Faces Request for US Import Ban Over Labour Concerns

A charity campaigning against modern-day slavery has petitioned US Customs and Border Protection to ban clothing imports from Boohoo Group Plc and most factories in Leicester, England.

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