The British retailer Marks & Spencer (M&S) has signed the Coalition to End Uyghur Forced Labor’s Call to Action and committed to end all cotton sourcing from the Uyghur Region.
Announcing the move on Wednesday morning, the company said that it would also cut all ties with suppliers implicated in the forced labor system that has ensnared hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs in recent years.
The announcement marks a major success for Freedom United’s campaign, the Coalition – whose Steering Committee Freedom United sits on – and for the global movement against forced Uyghur labor at large.
The Coalition’s Call to Action, which details the steps companies must take to ensure they are not complicit in the Chinese government’s forced labor system, has been endorsed by over 300 civil society groups—including nearly 100 Uyghur groups.
While a number of fashion brands have privately committed to the Call to Action, M&S is the first to do so publicly.
BBC News reports:
Marks & Spencer sources its cotton through businesses that are accredited with the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), a not-for-profit organisation that focuses on sustainable production.
In March last year, BCI suspended its activities in Xinjiang, and as a result, there is no new licensed BCI cotton coming from the region or in M&S products.
Nevertheless, M&S said it was important to sign on to the call to action to encourage other companies to examine their supply chain.
“When it comes to sustainable and ethical clothing, we can only achieve real change at scale by working with others,” said Richard Price, the managing director of M&S Clothing & Home.
Over one million Uyghurs have been detained in the Uyghur Region since 2017, with many forced to work in factories and camps as part of an ongoing state-sponsored campaign of oppression
With an estimated 20 percent of the world’s cotton originating in the province, the supply chains of countless global fashion brands are potentially implicated in what many have described as crimes against humanity.
In a press release, the Coalition welcomed M&S’s commitment and praised the company’s leadership, urging other companies to follow suit.
Read the Coalition’s full statement here.
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