Asos is committed to working with factories in Turkey as to pull out would be “irresponsible”, chief executive Nick Beighton said today.
Beighton was responding to the undercover investigation by BBC Panorama, which found Syrian refugee children making clothes for Asos and Marks & Spencer.
The programme, which aired last night, also identified Syrian refugees working for factories claiming to make clothes for Next, Zara and Mango.
“Turkey is particularly challenging for us right now, with the massive influx of refugees there,” said Beighton.
“We could put our work out to another country but we think that would be irresponsible. By staying in Turkey and working within the system, we are committed to building good ethics into our supply chain and, in the meantime, we continue to play our part in supporting vulnerable people.”
Asos sources products from 28 countries and more than 500 factories. Within Turkey it has 23 suppliers, 66 factories and 7,793 workers in its supply chain.
The Panorama programme discovered several Syrian children at work in a backstreet factory in Istanbul, where an Asos sample was found.
Asos admitted to Panorama that its clothes were made in the factory, but said it was not one of its approved factories. The etailer has carried out an inspection, which found 11 Syrian adults and three Syrian children working there.
Another factory, Yilteks Tekstil, was found to be employing a 14-year-old Syrian. Asos is now supporting the child to return to school and receive a living support of local living wage until graduation.
Two Syrian workers, who are now over the legal working age of 15, have been offered the opportunity to return to school with a local living wage for the next three years. One has accepted and the other has chosen to continue working in Yilteks.
Another Turkish worker, who worked there as a child has received compensation and has returned to school.
At Yasemin Iik, another factory identified in the programme, Asos has interviewed five Syrian workers to confirm they are paid above minimum wage and are not discriminated against. It said it would not press the factory to dismiss the workers.
“We welcome any reporting that draws attention to the challenges our industry is wrestling with if it brings pressure on the local government, local employers, irresponsible brands… anyone who can improve the plight of vulnerable workers,” said Beighton.
“The issues Panorama raises aren’t with our approved factories, who we audit. It’s with unapproved outsourcing to factories we don’t know about. This will continue to be a problem until we know where every garment is made and however difficult, that’s what ultimately we’ve got to achieve.”