Yesterday the Telegraph revealed that a powerful businessman had sought an injunction against them after allegations of sexual and racial abuse came to light. Today it has been revealed that the man in question is Philip Green.
This is the man who owns the Arcadia group, which includes Topshop – arguably one of the most popular and recognisable high street brands in the UK. This is not the first controversy that Green or Topshop have been involved in and I am sure it will not be the last. In light of these allegations we need to ask ourselves: isn’t it time that we stopped supporting a business and a man that have proven to be morally dubious time and time again?
I was not surprised when his name was revealed to be the businessman in question. I was also pleased that it was released despite the fact that he spent nearly £500,000 in legal fees to try and ensure that didn’t happen.
Rather than facing up to the allegations, he tried to silence his accusers and the free press instead – I highly doubt that any of his alleged victims had access to anywhere near the resources that he did. It’s not fair that people in positions of such power can wield it in this way and the public should be outraged.
Green’s wealth is built upon selling products directly to people like us, and it’s in our hands to call out these allegations in the most powerful way possible – by no longer handing our cash over to a company owned by a man whose apparent actions we abhor. If the public continue to support his business we are also continuing to support his wealth, power and his alleged behaviour.
The arguments against a boycott – that it would harm his employees more than it would him and the alleged actions of one man should not affect the whole business – seems to forget that Topshop is hardly the most ethical or morally sound business in itself.
This is a brand that is meant to appeal to women. However, it was only a few weeks ago that it abruptly withdrew its support from the launch of the book Feminists Don’t Wear Pink (And Other Lies). The pop-up shop that appeared to promote the feminist book was taken down only 20 minutes after it had been set up with no explanation. The book had been published in partnership with the UN charity Girl Up and the shop was meant to raise awareness and money for the charity. The decision to have it torn down was just one of the signs that this is hardly the most supportive or inclusive brand.
The lack of diversity in Topshop’s imagery has also long been called out, but nothing seems to change. It promotes impossible standards of thinness, with only lip service paid to the existence of plus-sized women. Its standards for workers’ rights leave a lot to be desired too. In 2016 it was revealed that Topshop’s sportswear collection with Beyonce was being manufactured using sweatshop labour, while cleaners in the stores had to fight to be paid a living wage. Meanwhile Green, who is worth an estimated £4.3bn was buying private jets and luxury yachts immediately after being questioned by MPs on his role in the demise of BHS, which put 11,000 people’s jobs at risk.
And yet despite all this, Topshop continues to dominate the high street. Shoppers can’t get enough. We seem all too willing to put principles to one side in favour of the latest jumper trend. Perhaps this will be the final nail in the coffin though.
People are rightfully angry at Green for his attempts at silencing the press from reporting on the allegations against him. Calls are made for his knighthood to be stripped – perhaps a valid point but a relatively irrelevant one. Removing his knighthood does little to help his alleged victims and even less to address the bigger picture.
I believe Topshop has proven itself to not be an inclusive supporter of women – despite what some of the slogan T-shirts it sells say. It is time to show our anger in the only way a billionaire businessman will understand – by no longer giving him our money.