As far as a pitch for a Netflix docudrama goes, it is unlikely to get executive pulses racing. 'Fast fashion brand is found to have less than optimal working practices, endangering the most vulnerable staff?'
People have heard all that before, for decades. And yet history keeps on repeating itself, the same story making headlines in 2020. How can responsible investors move with confidence in such an environment?
The latest retailer to fall from grace - Boohoo Group - comes in a long line of supply chain scandals in apparel. Its meteoric rise from Manchester market stall to full market listing and billions of pounds in sales took place at exactly the same time as public awareness around sweatshops took root.
At exactly the same time as the Rana Plaza disaster saw the world wake up to the true cost of globalised fast fashion, little did the UK consumer know that one of its most recognisable fashion brands was setting itself up for a very British sweat-shop scandal.
In recent weeks, a spike in Covid-19 cases has shone a light on the Leicester garment industry. And the spotlight has revealed an ugly underbelly of cramped conditions and below minimum wages - in short, the kind of poor labour practices that can be defined as modern slavery.
The responses have been predictable - Boohoo's management insisted that it had found no evidence to corroborate the allegations, but that it would split with certain suppliers found to be in breach of its standards. It also announced a full review - presumably into how its 'zero-tolerance' approach to supply chain ethics could become even more zero-tolerance.
These moves were not enough to satisfy one big investor, which subsequent to the story breaking, pulled its stake. That reaction was not universal, however. One big investor actually added to its stake, and many smaller investors saw the fall in price as a buying opportunity.
An internet meme declares the definition of madness to be doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. This folksy wisdom would be familiar to many, and yet it is precisely the situation we find ourselves in with the apparel industry.
The fundamental incentives push margins down and down, with speed to market and low costs the name of the game - fast fashion is all about rapid response to consumer fads, and the Leicester factories were squarely in the eye of this storm.
It just does not make any sense - if jeans sell for less than £10, and bikinis for less than £5, then how can everyone in the supply chain be being paid well? And it is what we are being asked to believe by companies in this industry: we have policies, standards and audits, the problems may exist, but not with us.