Boohoo has allegedly broken its promises of fair and ethical practices, an undercover investigation has found.

Despite vowing to overhaul its operations three years ago, a "BBC Panorama" investigation found that Boohoo allegedly pressures suppliers to slash prices and sets unrealistic lead times, or the time between the company making an order and receiving it.

In response, Boohoo said in a statement to The Independent: "We work in a constructive way with our suppliers to deliver great value for our customers. Our suppliers pay at least national minimum wage where they operate. The majority of our suppliers have worked with the boohoo group for a number of years, something that would not be possible if the work was not profitable."

BRITAIN-RETAIL-FASHION-BOOHOO (Photo : AFP via Getty Images/Justin Tallis)
An illustration with a mobile phone and laptop shows the logo and website of online fashion group Boohoo on August 12, 2021.

In 2020, Boohoo vowed to reform its practices through a program it launched called "Agenda for Change," which included a promise to pay suppliers fairly and set realistic timescales for production.

The program came after lawyer Alison Levitt found in her independent review significant "failings" in the company's U.K. supply chain. At the time, the British newspaper The Sunday Times had reported that Boohoo underpaid workers in factories that produced clothing for the fast-fashion giant and had unacceptable working conditions in Leicester, England, allegations that Levitt later found to be "substantially true."

Mahmud Kamani, a co-founder of Boohoo, stated at the time that he wished to "make everything better" and promised to "make Leicester right."

But BBC journalist Emma Lowther alleged in a new article and the documentary "BBC Panorama Boohoo's Broken Promises" that she saw how Boohoo failed to deliver on those promises when she went undercover for 10 weeks at the retailer's head office in Manchester.

In the documentary, Lowther witnessed and filmed how Boohoo employees allegedly pressed suppliers to lower prices, even after agreements had been made.

Boohoo's "intense" work environment

While going undercover as an admin assistant at the dresses department between April and June, she worked alongside the Boohoo employees who negotiate prices and place orders with suppliers, and experienced firsthand what she described as the company's "intense" working environment.

"Working at Boohoo is intense," the reporter said, as she detailed seeing personnel under "constant pressure to drive prices lower and lower."

Shorter lead time

During Lowther's time at Boohoo, its lead time for all garments was allegedly shortened from 10 weeks to six weeks or under. A 5% price cut was also allegedly imposed for every week a supplier's order was late.

Boohoo's lawyers told the BBC that the company's lead times were not unrealistic. They also said it was standard practice to have late delivery penalties that are discussed with suppliers.

Demands for price cuts

The journalist was allegedly instructed to implement a 5% discount on more than 400 previously agreed orders. The reporter also claimed that there were demands for price reductions even on orders that had already been completed and shipped.

According to Lowther, one supplier complained that it would lose money after an alleged 10% price cut was imposed.

Lowther claimed that the company's upper management were the ones calling for price cuts.