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US industry bodies speak on forced labour in Xinjiang

11
Mar '20
Pic: Shutterstock
Pic: Shutterstock
Several US trade associations, including the National Retail Federation (NRF), the American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA) and the US Fashion Industry Association (USFIA), have expressed deep concern over reports of forced labour and the treatment of Uyghurs and other ethnic minority workers in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) and elsewhere in China.

“The reported situation is of a scale, scope, and complexity that is unprecedented during the modern era of global supply chains,” the associations said in a joint statement recently.

“We work together to identify and eliminate forced labour, and conditions that can lead to forced labour, in the countries from which we source products. The industry continues to evolve and improve our existing approaches to identify, detect, and address risks of forced labour in our supply chains. We actively engage countries all over the world to advance respect for human rights,” the statement said.

As acknowledged by both the U.S. government and non-government experts, the conditions in Xinjiang and the treatment of ethnic minority workers from the region present profound challenges to the integrity of the global supply chain, including issues of transparency, access, and auditing. Accepting the status quo is not an option, the associations said.

Companies across the industry are considering all available approaches to address the situation. Brands and retailers are drawing on expert guidance and assembling industry stakeholders to address the situation.

“We are framing these actions through the lens of the United Nations (UN) Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and our own commitment to the fair treatment of workers in our supply chains,” said the statement.

As a successful solution requires state-to-state engagement and collaborative partnerships across government, industry, labour advocates, non-governmental organisations and other stakeholders, the associations urged the US government to immediately engage a multi-stakeholder working group to develop and deploy a collective approach that accurately assesses the problem, and find constructive solutions that target bad actors and protect the rights of workers and the integrity of global supply chains.

Fibre2Fashion News Desk (DS)


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