Boohoo, a fashion juggernaut that vocally supports the Black Lives Matter movement and its suppliers, are looking down the barrel of an import ban from the United States over accusations that the British company is exploiting slave labor.
When the Black Lives Matter riots were at fever pitch in the US and UK last summer, Boohoo’s social media waved the flag that was popular among Hollywood elites. The company posted an image of a black square with the hashtag #blackouttuesday in support of the far-left BLM movement.
Only one month before Boohoo became a cheerleader for the Marxist social movement, the company was steeped in a scandal over its use of what was called “slave labor” in factories in the industrial British city of Leicester. Boohoo has denied these allegations.
The fashion giant is now addressing a potential investigation from U.S. Customs and Border Protection after a string of petitions spearheaded by a group dedicated to ending modern-day slavery.
British lawyer Duncan Jepson, who heads up the Liberty Shared campaign, said to Sky News: “The evidence of Boohoo and forced labor is quite compelling. I think it will be a wake-up call for British institutions about how they’re handling modern slavery-enforced labor, particularly in a community like Leicester East.
“What we’d all like, those of us interested in improving labour conditions is for Boohoo to really get to grips with governance of their supply chain to ensure there is no wage theft and people have proper contracts.
“It must look at all 11 indicators the International Labor Organization sets out for forced labor and see there is compliance with those.”
The Tariff Act of 1930 in the US forbids the import of any foreign products that have been “mined, produced or manufactured, wholly or in part, in any foreign country by forced or indentured labor” with merchandise being susceptible to confiscation or expulsion. Companies that are proven to be responsible for such offenses may also face criminal charges.
The UK’s former anti-slavery commissioner Kevin Hyland remarked that if the United States discovers there is modern slavery transpiring in Boohoo’s chain of supplies in Leicester, then the possible sanctions from the US would be “enormous.”
“The aim of the petitions is very clear, that companies which think they can benefit from forced labour and the exploitation of others are shown that they cannot and will face a sanction that they can’t trade in the world’s largest economy,” he stated.
“But what it will do as well is create a gap for good businesses to come in and pay people properly,” Hyland continued.
In 2020, reports say that American sales amounted to over one-fifth of Boohoo’s total profits, at £263.6 million ($366.72 million). The company, which launched in 2006, is thought to be one of the UK’s fastest-rising fashion brands, with nearly 14 million customers buying its products online.
Regardless of the widely circulated reports of the exploitation of modern slavery, the company saw its earnings spike by 40 percent in 2020 to £1.235bn, with £92.2 million in financial gains.
Last July, an inquiry from the Sunday Times reported workers at Boohoo’s factories in Leicester were bringing home as little as £3.50 an hour, less than 40 per cent of the UK’s legal minimum wage for adults over 25, which is set at £8.72 per hour.
Boohoo representatives replied in a statement: “Over the past eight months we have been working closely with UK enforcement bodies and it is important to note that auditors and investigators who are forensically examining suppliers in Leicester have found no evidence of modern-day slavery.
“We have taken action against 64 suppliers who did not meet the group’s standards in the levels of transparency that business requires.”
Furthermore, the company asserted that they have not been alerted to any investigation from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, stating for the record that they feel they are following all regulations against modern slavery.