Boohoo: ‘We’re very aware there’s a lot more we can do’ to become more sustainable

The parent company of online fast fashion brand Boohoo has said it is set to grow its sustainability team as it recognised “there’s a lot more we can do” to become more environmentally friendly.

Manchester-based Boohoo Group said the decision to “grow” and “improve” the team had been “signed off”, in response to concerns around the group’s environmental impact and sustainability.

The comments were made at an event held at the office of Boohoo Group brand NastyGal, which saw protesters from Extinction Rebellion outside.

Tom Kershaw, Boohoo Group’s director of sustainability, said the protest was a “bit of a surprise”.

“We weren’t expecting that, but they’re welcome and they’ve got a point and they’re expressing that point.

“We spoken about carbon neutrality and we’re looking at how we can do that, we’re looking at carbon smarter to help reduce our carbon footprint and looking at the hotspots.”

He said the group’s focus is “trying to change the perception” where “previously Boohoo may have stood out as being the poster girl of fast fashion”.

“We’re doing a lot with our suppliers, we’re doing a lot with our partners, we’ve partnered with a lot of other retailers, and to try and be part of the answer than really be seen as being the negative player within that industry.

“But we’re also very aware there’s a lot more of what we can do.”

Extinction Rebellion protesters handed out flyers outside the event

Mr Kershaw, who started in the newly-created role six months ago, told BusinessLive there will “probably” be a team of 10 to 12 focusing on sustainability within the business.

“We’ve already got five people looking at supply chain compliance, so we’re looking to bring in a couple of dedicated sustainability professionals and then we’re looking to bring in some public affairs and corporate communications people to help do the work we do in the city with Greater Manchester.

“We’re actively recruiting, so our in-house recruitment team are recruiting and on LinkedIn we’re trying to grab people.”

The event, which marked the launch opening of the Digital City Festival taking place in Manchester this week, also heard from Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham.

He said: “I know Boohoo are doing a lot on those issues…but the broader point is, how can greater use of digital and technology optimise manufacturing processes to make them less energy intensive.

“I think there’s a big job to be done to reduce use of energy and also the way buildings work – I’m told that the buildings we’ve got in the city centre are nowhere near where they need to be with regard to energy efficiency – so I think there is a coming together of the digital and the green economy coming together and it maybe will help organisations like Boohoo to look at manufacturing processes and how they can be made better to further the green issues.”

The event heard from Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham

Mr Burnham said he is “going to put climate at the heart of the next manifesto”.

“[We will] make the argument to the Greater Manchester public that [digitalisation] will be the driving force that gets us better public transport and better housing that’s cheaper to run, that gets better jobs for young people and future-facing jobs.

“I think all of this will be essentially digitalisation and de-carbonisation going hand in hand.”

Mr Kershaw added: “We manufacturer about 40 per cent of our garments in the UK, so we have a really positive contribution to the UK economy there.

“I think we also recognise that we need to continue to have a positive social impact and at the same time try and implement initiatives to reduce our environmental impact.”

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