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Steve Coogan: Celebrities who endorse unethical retailers should be accountable

Steve Coogan stars in Greed (Ian West/PA)
Steve Coogan stars in Greed (Ian West/PA)

Steve Coogan has criticised celebrities who endorse retail companies that sell clothes made by factory workers who are not paid properly.

The actor, who plays a retail tycoon inspired by Topshop magnate Sir Philip Green in his new film Greed, said there needs to be more accountability for companies that operate “in a moral vaccuum.”

He told the PA news agency: “There’s a collusion of vested interests, that tell you to look at supermodels in clothes, say to look over here and not look over here at people who have been paid so little they can’t even afford running water.

“They don’t want you to think about that, so they employ techniques to distract you, and yes, it’s a collusion of immoral forces at play.”

He added: “I think people or celebrities or anyone who has a high profile should be held more to account for their behaviour, whether it’s the practitioners themselves, or people who endorse them.

“Or people who enable them, whether it be governments, institutions, through colluding to create a system of omerta, where we don’t talk about certain things.

“Globalised multinational companies are happy to embrace gender politics, happy to embrace the environment, they can spin all these things in their interest.

“The one thing they don’t want to talk about is poverty, because those who live in poverty don’t buy their stuff, so the other way to elevate that is to make the people who do buy their stuff talk about it, so I’m hoping that’s what the film does.”

Greed special screening – London
Steve Coogan, left, and director Michael Winterbottom at a screening of the film (Ian West/PA)

Coogan said Sir Philip is “pernicious”, but added: “Philip Green is not to be blamed for this. There’s a system called free market which basically, he’s the produce of that.

“He’s doing nothing more than the way that is encouraged to behave, he’s obeying the rules of the market, and he’s sort of the worst manifestation of the pernicious forces at play when you leave things to the market.

“He’s a grotesque man who exploits people unapologetically. And in fact the system is set up to enable him to do that very thing, and so people need to talk about that, how people become super rich, and they become super rich by subjugating people and creating super, super poor, and that’s something which is becoming more and more prevalent.

“And what we are hoping is that people will put this on the agenda and people will talk about it in the same way we talk about the environment, the same way we talk about gender, and sexual identity and gender politics. We want people to talk about how people are treated and how much we want very, very cheap clothes and what price are we prepared to pay for that.”

Greed is released in UK cinemas on February 21.

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