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Investors push fashion brands to hold ground amid China backlash

  • Published on
    April 2, 2021
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  • Category:
    Forced Labor, Supply Chain
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Western fashion brands are under pressure from an alliance of more than 50 investors and funds to take action on forced labor in the Uyghur Region, according to a Reuters exclusive.

The group, which is backed by the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), said it was contacting dozens of companies demanding supply chain transparency and the rejection of human rights abuses—regardless of potential business consequences in China.

The past week has seen companies vocal on forced labor in the Uyghur Region—among them H&M, Nike, and Adidas—face serious backlash in China, including consumer boycotts, and some fear the backlash is leading fashion brands to backslide.

As of last week, H&M’s 2020 statement on the Uyghur Region could no longer be accessed through the Human Rights section of its website, while Inditex’s forced labor statement was scrubbed entirely.

Hugo Boss went a step further and pledged to continue sourcing cotton from the Uyghur Region, although this statement—made on Chinese social media—was later repudiated by a company spokeswoman.

With retaliation from the Chinese government threatening progress made against forced labor in the Uyghur Region, the investor alliance is stepping in to urge companies to hold their ground.

Reuters reports:

Anita Dorett, program director for the Investor Alliance for Human Rights, which put together the request to the fashion brands and other big corporate names, said she was worried that some companies had moved to scrub language about policies on forced labour from their websites, or pledged to buy more cotton from Xinjiang, in fear of a backlash from Chinese social media and companies.

“Companies do not prioritise resources to digging into their supply chains and mapping them out. As investors, we want transparency and accountability,” Dorett said in an interview. She added that “This is their business. If they don’t know what’s happening, who will?”

Recent tensions over the Uyghur crisis between the West and China, which denies all allegations of forced labor, have extended well beyond the fashion industry.

The U.S., U.K., E.U., and Canada have all imposed sanctions on China over human rights abuses, straining diplomatic relations and creating additional challenges for brands operating in both markets.

The investor alliance said that reporting obligations in the E.U. and other Western markets could soon require brands by law to fully disclose their supply chains, making it to their benefit that they take immediate action on forced Uyghur labor.

Freedom United is a prominent voice against forced labor in the Uyghur Region, and has since last summer campaigned with ICCR as part of the steering committee of the Coalition to End Forced Labor in the Uyghur Region.

Help us keep up the pressure at this critical moment and write to fashion brands today.


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3 years ago

The problem is simply greed so it not likey to change as corporation like paying 20 bucks for a product that sells 179 in the USA

3 years ago

Judging by past histories, it is not surprising to believe that some country leaders would go as far as to tell lies about other countries when they find them as a “threat” to their global leader ranking. Unfortunately and immorally coming together to try to defeat a shared so called enemy due to their own fear, they call themselves allies.

Roe Freeman
Roe Freeman
3 years ago

We have to divest our dependence on cheap clothing and products made by enforced slave labour wherever it exists and China is one of those countries in which inhuman practices exist.

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