How ethical is Pretty Little Thing?
Our research highlights several ethical issues with Pretty Little Thing, and it received a worst Ethical Consumer rating for Environmental Reporting, Climate Change, Pollution & Toxics, Palm Oil Sourcing, Animal Testing, Animal Rights, Workers’ Rights, Supply Chain Management and Tax Conduct.
Below we outline some of these issues. To see the full detailed stories, and Pretty Little Thing’s overall ethical rating, please sign in or subscribe.
Pretty Little Thing was marked down in the Human Rights category because its parent company Boohoo Group was found to be selling clothes made by Pakistani workers who earned 29p per hour, according to a December 2020 article in The Guardian.
It was also marked down for the Leicester garment factories scandal. An independent investigation published in September 2020 by Alison Levitt QC stated
“Boohoo’s monitoring of its Leicester supply chain has been inadequate for many years.”
The investigation was carried out after claims that workers were paid below minimum wage (as low as £3.50 per hour). The investigation said “allegations of unacceptable working conditions and underpayment of workers are not only well-founded, but are substantially true."
Many large clothes companies list the countries where suppliers are located, due to how sourcing from oppressive regimes and supply chain workers’ rights abuses are common in the clothing sector. As neither Boohoo nor Pretty Little Thing disclosed the country of origin of its suppliers, it lost half a mark under Ethical Consumer’s Human Rights category.
It scored our worst rating for Supply Chain Management. It didn’t appear to audit any of its suppliers outside of the UK, wasn’t part of any multi-stakeholder initiatives, and despite appointing Sir Brian Leveson to provide independent oversight of its ‘Agenda for change’ it was unclear in what ways this change was supposed to be happening.
Its parent company, Boohoo Group, also had no policy against sourcing cotton from Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, even though it is widely known that these are two of the world’s largest exporters of cotton and each year governments forcibly mobilise over one million citizens to grow and harvest cotton.
Boohoo scored just 11% in the 2019 Fashion Transparency Index, which ranks 200 of the biggest global fashion brands and retailers according to their disclosure surrounding their supply chain and social and environmental impact. The average score was 21%.
Pretty Little Thing lost a whole mark under Ethical Consumer’s Animal Rights category. Within the Boohoo group, items containing leather, wool and down were either found as for sale or were discussed in company policy as materials. It stated that by 2025 “All our leather, wool, feather and down will be sourced in line with industry best practice”, suggesting that for the time being it wasn’t following best practice - and this seemed to be the case, as no further detail was found.
Ethical Consumer also found that Boohoo and Pretty Little Thing lacked any clear policies related to animal testing, despite selling several cosmetic products.
Pretty Little Thing scores our worst rating for Carbon Management and Reporting, because its parent company Boohoo didn’t appear to have taken adequate steps to address its emissions.
The only steps it discussed were LED rollouts and installing solar panels in Burnley and Manchester.
Nothing was mentioned of its supply chain, which is where most of its emissions would be, nor of transport or other key issues within the clothing sector. While it had a carbon reductions target in line with international agreements, it provided no information about how it planned to meet these targets.
It also scored a worst rating for Environmental Reporting, because it provided virtually no detail about environmental issues caused by company activity and its efforts to address them, and it didn’t have any meaningful future dated environmental reduction targets.
It scored our worst rating for its toxic policies related to clothing. Boohoo stated in its Sustainability Plan 2021 that it was launching a 'clothes.made smarter' scheme, saying "We've analysed our material mix and developed guidelines for more sustainable materials, with a big focus on polyester and cotton which are the materials we use the most across the group." But little detail about what this meant was detailed, and no information about whether it sourced sustainable cotton was identified.
It also scored a worst pollution and toxics rating for cosmetics, because it appeared to have no policies prohibiting the use of parabens, triclosan or phthalates.
Pretty Little Thing lost a whole mark under Ethical Consumer’s for Likely Use of Tax Avoidance Strategies category. This is because its parent company Boohoo Group is incorporated in Jersey, a jurisdiction considered to be a tax haven, despite the majority of its operations being on the UK mainland.
Four of Boohoo’s directors were paid over £1m for the year ended February 2021, which was considered to be excessive.
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