South Pole, the world’s largest carbon consultancy, sells carbon credits for companies seeking to offset their carbon emissions. A recent investigation by The Guardian and Follow the Money has linked one of the projects to the Uyghur region of China, thereby exposing the involvement of Uyghur forced labor in the supply chain.
Carbon credits earned on the back of Uyghur forced labor
The credits in question were from the Bachu carbon project, developed by South Pole, which is focused on a biomass power plant in the Uyghur region. The project claims by burning waste cotton stalks from nearby fields to generate electricity, the plant would lower global carbon emissions. The investigation included analyzing documents, satellite imagery, and leaked South Pole data, as well as speaking to several experts about the Chinese government’s treatment of Uyghur Muslims.
The investigation found:
“South Pole was aware of the risk of forced labor linked to the scheme and… did not raise its concerns with the certification body Gold Standard and… companies that had bought the credits said they were not alerted.”
Coercive “labor transfers,” the term the Chinese government has started using to describe Uyghur labor, potentially involved hundreds of people within the immediate area where the cotton stalks were collected, said one of the academics spoken to by the investigation.
BP, Spotify and WWF may have purchased “coercive labor” credits
Credits to the Bachu project have been sold since 2014, and data point to South Pole having made huge profits off their sales, estimated at €657,529. While the data may not be definitive, the investigation found the credits were purchased from the Chinese partner for €0.39 and sold by South Pole €4.28, on average, to companies striving to meet environmental targets through the purchase of these carbon credits.
The Guardian reports:
“WWF, Spotify, the tennis player Dominic Thiem, Ecologi and Hilton Hotels were among others that bought credits from the project, according to the Gold Standard registry and South Pole sales data.”
According to figures uncovered during the investigation, the company that bought the most credits was British Petroleum (BP). The 2020 BP Targe Neutral scheme allowed people the chance to offset their carbon emissions from driving. However, trading off environmental progress with human rights abuses is not a step in the right direction since those carbon offsets are tainted with Uyghur forced labor.
Uyghur forced labor is genocide made profitable
Freedom United takes a firm stand against Uyghur forced labor which taints cotton, fashion, car manufacturing, solar panels and many other industries. Sadly, Uyghur forced labor is currently so pervasive in the Xinjiang region that anything made there should be considered as containing Uyghur forced labor. Our recent online event on consumerism and modern slavery helped spotlight this tragedy.
Rushan Abbas, Founder and Executive Director of Campaign for Uyghurs said:
“The Chinese government is making genocide a profitable initiative using slave labor. Uyghur culture and religion are outlawed and punishable by prison and brutality. Millions of people are in concentration camps and forced labor facilities just for being Uyghur.”
You can join us in taking a stand against Uyghur forced labor by signing one of our petitions to industry leaders demanding that they eliminate Uyghur forced labor from their supply chains. Stand with Freedom United and millions of others in urging the Chinese government to end the persecution and exploitation of Uyghurs and other marginalized groups.