Executives of the online fashion chain Boohoo have said they are “fixing” things at the firm, which has come under fire over workers’ pay and conditions and its ultra-low pricing.
The firm’s co-founder, Mahmud Kamani, who rarely speaks publicly, said he wanted to “make everything better”.
“I want to make Leicester right, I promise you’,” he said.
Mr Kamani was being questioned by MPs looking into the environmental impact of “fast fashion”.
The term is used to describe companies selling clothes very cheaply, that are often disposed of quickly as trends change, causing pollution and waste.
But as well as facing questions around the environmental impact of its business model, Boohoo has been accused of tolerating widespread abuses of employment law at some of its suppliers in Leicester. Investigations earlier this year suggested workers were being paid below the minimum wage.
In September, an independent review of the claims, by Alison Levitt QC, found a series of failings. It concluded that although Boohoo didn’t intentionally profit from the poor working practices, the firm’s monitoring of these factories was ‘inadequate”.
Mr Kamani told MPs on Parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee that the last 12 months had been “very difficult” and that he was as concerned as everyone else about what had been uncovered.
“We are fixing this,” he said. “We will make a better Boohoo.”
Boohoo’s Responsible Sourcing and Product Operations Director, Andrew Reeney, told the committee that the company had exited arrangements with 64 suppliers and factories after finding violations of its code of conduct.
Mr Kamani said he supported complete transparency, but that Boohoo couldn’t fix all the problems on its own. A collaborative effort was needed, he said.
Asked whether he would meet with the shopworkers’ union, Usdaw, Mr Kamani refused, although he said unions were free to campaign outside Boohoo’s sites and workers were free to join them.
Mr Kamani pointed out that it would be very easy for Boohoo to move its production offshore.
“We are here to support the industry,” he told MPs. “Sometimes we feel we’re getting punished for it.”
Boohoo executives were also asked about textile waste and the company’s recent “Black Friday” promotions, which included a crop top for 6p and a bikini selling for 8p.
They defended the “99% off” deals, describing it as a one-off sale in an unprecedented year.
Boohoo’s commercial director Kelly Byrne said everyone knew it was loss-leading and a marketing strategy.