Renewable energy sector failing to address Uyghur forced labor

Renewable energy sector failing to address Uyghur forced labor

  • Published on
    January 23, 2024
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  • Category:
    Forced Labor
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A recently published investor guide and policy brief on green technology supply chains found that more proactive strategies are needed to keep forced labor out of the supply chain in the U.K., reports The Independent. The report also highlighted that any actions taken to try and eliminate complicity in Uyghur forced labor continue to fail due to a lack of coordinated international governmental collaboration.

Human rights risks with any materials sourced or produced in the Uyghur region

Production or material sourcing for much of the green technology on the market is reliant on the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in China which means supply chains are tainted by Uyghur forced labor. The report by Anti-Slavery International, the Helena Kennedy Centre for International Justice, and the Investor Alliance for Human Rights states that more effective and proactive strategies from business leaders and ministers are needed to address systemic forced labor risks.

Jakub Sobik from the Modern Slavery and Human Rights Policy and Evidence Centre states,

The global efforts to address climate change and move to clean energy should not come at the expense of increasing the risks of people being exploited.

The international community and countless human rights organizations have widely accused China of committing crimes against humanity and genocide against the Uyghur population as well as other mostly Muslim ethnic groups in the north-western region. The team which conducted the research warn that any materials connected to the Uyghur region through sourcing or production carry human rights risks.

Green tech investments support forced labor and greenwashing

The signs are clear: investors must re-channel their investments into companies with less risk of forced labor in the supply chain. Those who think that audits of green energy suppliers in the Uyghur Region can help are missing the mark, according to the authors.

Anita Dorett, director at the Investor Alliance for Human Rights cautions,

The inability to conduct human rights due diligence on the ground, the impossibility of direct remediation and the absence of investor leverage will necessitate divestment from any supplier operating in the Uyghur Region.

Clean energy industry NOT “clean”

In addition to forced labor, the region is also heavily reliant on coal-generated electricity to power these industries and keep them “cost-competitive” according to the International Energy Agency. This puts investors at risk of greenwashing and does not support the U.K.’s transition to net zero.

In 2021 through a coalition, we released a report conducted by researchers at Sheffield Hallam University revealing almost the entire global solar panel industry is sullied by the Uyghur forced labor system. But we have the power to push for change! While the Chinese government may continue to deny wrongdoing, by drawing attention to the issue we can put pressure on them to end their use of forced labor. Towards this, western governments and corporations need to end involvement in any factories implicated by forced labor. Using economic and political leverage we can make it painful for the Chinese government to continue its current practices. Take action to tell world leaders that clean energy must be free of forced labor.

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