Missguided chief executive Nitin Passi has been criticised by environmental audit committee chair Mary Creagh after refusing to attend a hearing on sustainability in the fast fashion industry.
Asos, Boohoo, PrettyLittleThing and Missguided were invited to attend the hearing, scheduled to take place on Tuesday 27 November, following concerns that UK garment workers are not being paid the minimum wage. The committee also said it had “serious concerns” about the potentially excessive waste and plastic pollution generated by the fast fashion industry.
Nick Beighton, chief executive of Asos, and Carol Kane, joint chief executive of the Boohoo Group, who will represent both Boohoo and PrettyLittleThing, are due to attend. Missguided will be represented by Paul Smith, head of product quality and supply.
In a letter to Passi, Creagh wrote: “Given the seriousness of these issues we would expect them to warrant your personal attention as the ultimate decision maker in your organisation. Chief executives from both Boohoo and Asos have accepted our invitation to appear in parliament. We are disappointed that [you] have declined.
“The committee notes that you found time to give an interview to a Sunday newspaper last week. Can I therefore reiterate our invitation to you to attend our hearing in order for you to personally respond to our questions. I am sure your attendance will be of great interest to the House of Commons, your customers and the wider public.”
Passi countered that he was sending an expert in sustainability, product quality and environmental standards from the Manchester-based business.
In a written response the Missguided boss said: “I have asked my senior colleague, Paul Smith, to attend because Paul was recruited directly by me because of his expertise. Paul reports directly to me. He is Missguided’s representative at the Ethical Trading Initiative, is a member of its Leicester working group, and has hands-on responsibility for its work there.
“Paul has 33 years’ experience working in clothing retail. I firmly believe this experience will be helpful to the committee as it considers the right recommendations on which government policy going forward will be based.”
He added: “While we appreciate the importance of your work and are committed to assisting as you develop recommendations, there were no specific allegations against Missguided in the transcripts of your previous hearings. We are a family-owned, nine-year-old business that represents 0.26% of the UK womenswear market – smaller by a significant order than the other public companies you called to give evidence.”
Marks & Spencer’s director of sustainable business Mike Barry, Paul Lister, head of ethical trade for Primark, Jamie Beck, head of supplier management for the Arcadia Group and Leanne Wood, chief people, strategy and corporate affairs officer for Burberry, will also be questioned in a separate session aimed at high street retailers.