Leicester Sweatshops: Who is to Blame?
Arts and Lit Editor Lucy Aylmer discusses Leicester Sweatshops as as part of her series on fast fashion
For the past few months, Exeposé has been covering the horrifying realities of fast fashion. Amid recent events in the news, Leicester sweatshops have made headlines for their irresponsible business practices surrounding the fast fashion FTSE100 company, Boohoo. According to Labour Behind the Label, many Leicester factories continued to work at 100% capacity during lockdown. Employees at Boohoo factories were forced to come in, even whilst sick with COVID-19. The recent local lockdown has been associated with the textile industry’s malpractices.
Besides the blatant ignorance of lockdown laws, it was also found that employees were paid between £3.50 per hour ,with no contract, according to Euronews. The minimum wage for those over 25 is £8.21. They have subsequently been accused of abusing the Modern Slavery Act on grounds of poor pay, inadequate working conditions and avoidance of health and safety compliance.
The Leicester sweatshop scandal has helped raised the profile of damaging fast fashion practices. People are beginning to wake up to the reality it has on day to day civilian life. Particularly with the triggering of a local lockdown and the setback it has for the Leicester economy.
Greater shareholder transparency must be commanded if the industry is to change
Arguably market forces are incredibly persuasive in changing cultural norms; is this where the responsibility lies? According to The Guardian, one of Boohoo’s largest shareholders, Aberdeen Standard Investments (SLA), sold off 27 million shares amid recent events. The company’s decision was based on Boohoo’s inadequate standards and inability to meet their ethical criteria. Since then, Boohoo has experienced a £1billion-plus market fall. As the share price index drops, this is likely to deter future investors and hopefully, discourage the growth of fast fashion.
It is clear that Boohoo requires greater monitoring over their supply chain. However, questions must be raised over shareholder involvement. Greater shareholder transparency must be commanded if the industry is to change. According to Morningstar, 3% of SLA’s so called ‘sustainable funds’ were invested in Boohoo. Sustainable funds are those that consider environmental, social and corporate governance to evaluate their investments and societal impact . Indisputably, Boohoo does not fall under that definition, but yet SLA incorporated it into their sustainable funds portfolio.
The fashion industry has its flaws. Whether it’s Boohoo’s incoherent supply chain monitoring or sustainable funds investing in unsustainable companies. There appears to be a lack of clarity and understanding that extends across the industry. Perhaps the answer lies in stringent regulation and arbitrary check- ups on textile factories to enforce higher quality standards. Or even revision of the penalties incurred to deter businesses from malpractice if hefty financial punishments are in place. Either way, the blame and responsibility cannot be placed on one individual. Instead it requires all players to help clean up the messy reality of the fashion industry.