Boohoo could face US import ban over forced labour allegations

Online fashion retailer Boohoo could potentially face a US import ban over allegations that the company uses slave labour in its supply chain.

A ban on imports would be a significant blow to the brand, with £263 million of its sales coming from the states in 2020.

According to a Sky News report, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has come across enough evidence to carry out an investigation following petitions submitted by campaign group Liberty Shared.

Earlier this month, the group shared two petitions to the US CBP, one of which concerned the “potential prohibition of importation into the US of apparel products sold by Boohoo” if they contain “in whole or in part materials made with forced labour.”

The other petition was in reference to the possible ban on all apparel products made in Leicester, with the exception of products made by two companies in the region: Basic Premier and Ethically Sourced Products.

"The evidence of Boohoo and forced labour is quite compelling. I think it will be a wake-up call for British institutions about how they're handling modern slavery enforced labour, particularly in a community like Leicester East,” Jepson told Sky News. "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."

He added: "It must look at all 11 indicators the International Labour Organisation sets out for forced labour and see there is compliance with those."

Last year Boohoo published the findings of an independent review of its supply chain, which revealed "many failings."

The review found unacceptable working conditions, with cramped factories that sometimes had no open fire escapes.

Employee rights were ignored on a wide scale, with many not entitled to paid holidays or sick pay, facing “excessive” working hours and paid less than the national minimum or living wage.

However, the review found no evidence that Boohoo had committed any criminal offences, adding that the steps which Boohoo is now taking in relation to remedying problems in its Leicester supply chain had been implemented nearly a year ago.

Retail Systems has reached out to Boohoo for comment.

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