Oct 21

Why We're Still Boycotting Boohoo

by Florenne Earle Ledger

We’re not crying…you are. After realising how awful fast fashion is, we’re covering up our sobs by looking at the impact of Boohoo (get it, like boo hoo? It had to be done). We’ve cancelled Shein and Zara on our Thoughts page already, so it felt right to tackle Boohoo as well. Let’s get to grips with why we’re most definitely still boycotting BooHoo.

Founded in Manchester in 2006, Boohoo has been a hugely successful fast fashion player in the UK. Founders Mahmud Kamani and Carol Kane made a profit well into the millions in 2022 alone. How do they do it? Well, their tendency to tap into celebrity endorsement has probably worked in their favour. The likes of Emily Ratajkowski and Sofia Richie have been spotted in BooHoo clothing, and of course, their recent stunt of appointing Kourtney Kardashian as their sustainability ambassador as a beg for relevance inevitably led to sales. Their famous £5 dress and the fact they don’t pay their workers a living wage (found guilty of paying £5 below the minimum wage for an adult in the UK) definitely also has something to do with their huge profits.


Where are They now?

Despite increasing awareness of the reality behind fast fashion, with 13 million Instagram followers Boohoo are still making a sizable amount of sales. They launch around 700 new items a week, so there’s always something new for Boohoo lovers to snap up. Their constant sales make it even more enticing for people to make purchases. You thought Black Friday was bad, Boohoo had a ‘50% off warm up to Black Friday sale’ running the week before Black Friday - because 50% off almost 12,000 items wouldn’t be a large enough discount for an actual Black Friday sale. The grand finale was referred to as a ‘90% off Black Friday Party’. We didn’t RSVP.

When you download the app, you can get 20% off the entire site. Their huge discounts running site wide for extended periods of time expose the huge profit margins on their clothing. They can afford to slash prices and have confidence they will still make a mass profit. Their sales literally out them as unsustainable but everyone is too blinded by the deal to care.

What Actually Happened in Leicester?

We all know in summer of 2020 Boohoo were accused of modern-day slavery when it was discovered their garment workers in Leceister were only earning £3.50 an hour, over £5 less than the minimum wage for an adult at the time, £8.72. But what else happened? It wasn’t only the shockingly low pay that got people talking. During lockdown Boohoo reportedly forced their staff to work even if they were ill, with little to no social distancing measures in place and limited access to PPE. When you think about the fact that Boohoo sales increased by 44% during lockdown it’s even worse to think about how overworked and underpaid these people were during this difficult time.

Boohoo's Response

After radio silence, Boohoo spoke up to defend themselves against the accusations of poor workhouse conditions. Keep in mind, they spoke up against these allegations very recently, over two years after the initial scandal. That’s too long to be considered "fashionably" late.

Their statement:

“We offer generous rates of pay, well over and above the National Living Wage, with additional benefits including subsidised private healthcare. Through our employee engagement programme our colleagues tell us that they are happy with their working environment, feel valued and feel listened to.”

If what they say is true then this is great news. But we’re still skeptical, mainly due to their lack of transparency in all their policies, ridiculously large discounts and inherently unsustainable production process. Also, in all Boohoo HQ content, they feature their office workers rather than their garment workers. Maybe we’re being overly analytical, but it seems a little like they’re trying to distract people from the garment workers that are slaving away making their clothes for a fraction of what they deserve - just because they don’t work in the office doesn’t mean they aren’t employed by Boohoo.

Dropping 700 items a week equates to an intense production process in which people are working extremely hard for little money. It’s not only the garment workers' lives at risk from not being paid a proper living wage, but Boohoo’s take on animal rights is also cause for concern. They continue to use unethical materials and make no effort to minimise the amount of harmful chemicals used in their clothing. Their lack of transparency makes it hard to decipher a lot of their questionable choices, including their safeguarding post Covid19. As if it couldn’t get any worse, Ethical Consumer Ratings revealed Boohoo scored the worst in the following categories:

  • Worst Ethical Consumer rating for Environmental Reporting
  • Worst Ethical Consumer rating for palm oil sourcing
  • Worst Ethical Consumer rating for cotton sourcing
  • Worst Ethical Consumer rating for toxic chemicals
  • Worst Ethical Consumer rating for Supply Chain Management
  • Worst Ethical Consumer rating for animal testing policy
  • Worst Ethical Consumer rating for likely tax avoidance

Let’s just say ‘disappointed but not surprised’ seems like a fitting response. Boohoo owns Pretty Little Thing, Miss Pap, boohooMan (big ick) and Nasty Gal, meaning all these brands also share their dismal sustainability ratings, demonstrating the mass impact of fast fashion on the planet. In 2021, Boohoo bought Burton, Debenhams, Dorothy Perkins, Principles and Wallis and surprise surprise, the sustainability rating of those brands plummeted after the purchase. The common denominator is Boohoo.

They... Tried?

It’s giving the same energy as the PLT marketplace, completely pointless and not at all sustainable, but it’s worth mentioning that Boohoo launched reGAIN, an app where consumers can send back their old Boohoo clothing in exchange for BooHoo vouchers and discount codes. It was almost a good initiative, reducing the amount of textile waste from users buying into trends, but the fact users have to spend the money on Boohoo makes the problem even worse. If people want to reduce textile waste, all they need to do is think more carefully about purchases (rather than being coerced into making purchases by a stampede of sales), donate items to charity or give them to friends. Boohoo most definitely doesn’t need any more of our money.

What's the tea?

So that’s the real impact of Boohoo for those that weren’t already aware. We understand people’s financial situation can leave them with no other choice but to shop fast fashion, which is why we’re calling on the CEOs of these fast fashion companies to make genuine changes to their business model. Without the change coming from the company itself, we can’t expect people to completely boycott these brands. Garment workers need to be paid more, we need to see less sales forcing people to make impulse buys. Not only that, Boohoo needs to dramatically reduce how much clothing they produce and source more ethical materials. That being said, we all have a responsibility to do our bit, and those that afford it should most definitely not shop from Boohoo or any brands alike.

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