There was no boycott, outraged customers didn’t flock elsewhere. On the contrary, the response was to buy even more of Boohoo’s clothes than before. I am reminded of a recent conversation with the boss of one of Britain’s most ethical retailers who readily conceded that his own approach had limits.
The thrust of it was this: ask customers if they want organic, free range, grass-fed beef, and more often than not the response will be an enthusiastic “yes”. But ask those same people if they are prepared to pay a couple of pounds extra for that same meat, and you will get a different answer.
How telling that Boohoo can pledge to make “substantive, long-lasting and meaningful change” without fear of jeopardising its highly lucrative business model. Levitt’s recommendations can be implemented “without impacting lead times or financial expectations”, it said.
Which begs the screamingly obvious question: why didn’t it act sooner? Well, when customers are happy to turn a blind eye, is it a surprise that companies are willing to do the same?
Of course companies must be held to account and suspected acts of corporate wrongdoing investigated thoroughly. Exemplary standards of governance are the bedrock of Anglo-Saxon capitalism. But consumers need to take a long hard look at themselves too.