China: 83 major brands implicated in report on forced labour of ethnic minorities from Xinjiang assigned to factories across provinces; Includes company responses

In March 2020, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) published a report Uyghurs for sale: ‘Re-education’, forced labour and surveillance beyond Xinjiang, which identified 83 foreign and Chinese companies as allegedly directly or indirectly benefiting from the use of Uyghur workers outside Xinjiang through potentially abusive labour transfer programs. 

ASPI estimates at least 80,000 Uyghurs were transferred out of Xinjiang and assigned to factories in a range of supply chains including electronics, textiles, and automotives under a central government policy known as ‘Xinjiang Aid’. The report identified 27 factories in nine Chinese provinces that are using Uyghur labour transferred from Xinjiang since 2017.

ASPI reached out to the 83 brands to confirm their relevant supplier details. Where companies responded before publication, they have included their relevant clarifications in their report.

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited Abercrombie & Fitch, adidas, Amazon, BMW, Gap, H&M, Inditex, Marks & Spencer, Nike, North Face, Puma, PVH, Samsung and UNIQLO to respond; their responses are provided. We invited Apple, Esprit, Fila and Victoria's Secret to respond; they did not. We will continue to post further company responses as we receive them. 

Further company comments can also be found in the articles linked below. 

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Company response
15 March 2020

UNIQLO's response

Author: UNIQLO

UNIQLO production partners must commit to our strict company code of conduct, which covers human and worker rights. Additionally, we require all production partners to uphold the same standards set out in our code of conduct with any of their own upstream suppliers.

While we are aware of claims made in a recent report by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), we do not have any business with the two factories linked to UNIQLO in the report. We can also confirm that no UNIQLO product is made in Xinjiang. In addition, through the company's factory monitoring program, which includes a hotline for workers to contact us directly, we have not learned of any of the issues raised in the report.

Company response
12 March 2020

BMW's response

Author: BMW

The creators of the "Australian Strategic Policy Institute" study were not in contact with us. We cannot comment regarding the content.

As a rule, the following applies: The BMW Group has integrated a survey for sustainability standards of direct suppliers in its allocation process and defined adherence to the standards as a critical deciding factor. (https://www.bmwgroup.com/en/responsibility/supply-chain-management.html). In our purchasing conditions, we pose various questions, including regarding human rights and working conditions. Our direct suppliers are also required to implement our policies with their own suppliers and to cascade this further down the supply chain (sub-supplier management).

Company response
11 March 2020

Inditex's response

Author: Inditex

... We take the information published in the report very seriously... [and] have taken the following actions...:

Actions taken at the Workplace level

  • We continue to conduct thorough due diligence across our supply chain in China through our internal teams and expert external partners to ensure the absence of forced labour...
  • ... Inditex does not have commercial relations with any factory located in Xinjiang.

Actions at Community level

  • Since 2017, we have been working on a Public Private Partnership with the International Labour Organization to enhance human and labour rights... including the prevention of Forced Labour. China is... involved... [in] the project [which runs] in different provinces such as Hebei, Shandong, Hubei and Anhui...

Actions at Industry Level

  • This is an industry-wide issue and we continue to engage on this issue with relevant stakeholders... to further understand the issues... to create leverage and develop the best solutions for workers...

[The full response is attached]

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Company response
11 March 2020

Nike's response

Author: Nike

... While Nike does not directly source products from the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR), and does not have relationships with the Haoyuanpeng Clothing Manufacturing, Qingdao Jifa Group, or Esquel facilities in XUAR, we have been conducting ongoing diligence with our suppliers in China to identify and assess potential risks related to employment of people from XUAR.

Since last year, Taekwang’s Qingdao facility has not recruited new employees from XUAR and is currently seeking expert advice on the best and most responsible approach to conclude the employment of remaining employees from XUAR. Taekwang has confirmed that their employees from XUAR have the ability to end their contracts at any time without repercussion, and historically many have chosen to do so...

[W]e are continuing to evaluate how to best monitor our compliance standards in light of the complexity of this situation... [W]e are also drawing on expert guidance and working with brands and other stakeholders to consider all available approaches to responsibly address this situation. We have been collaborating with... Retail Industry Leaders Association, American Apparel & Footwear Association, National Retail Federation and U.S. Fashion Industry Association and are supportive of the[ir] statement... on this matter.

[The full response is attached]

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Item
10 March 2020

Joint statement: Industry associations urge US govt. to engage multi-stakeholder working group to address forced labour of ethnic minorities in Xinjiang & across China

Author: American Apparel & Footwear Association, Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America, National Retail Federation, Retail Industry Leaders Association & United States Fashion Industry Association

"STATEMENT ON REPORTS OF FORCED LABOR IN XINJIANG", 10 March 2020

... We are deeply concerned by reports of forced labor 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 unprecedented during the modern era of global supply chains...

[T]he 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...

Brands and retailers are drawing on expert guidance and assembling industry stakeholders to address the situation... Our members have expressed strong concerns to their suppliers...

[O]ur industry cannot solve this alone. A successful solution for all, including the workers, will require state-to-state engagement and collaborative partnerships... Therefore, we urge the U.S. 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...

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Company non-response
8 March 2020

Apple did not respond

Company non-response
8 March 2020

Esprit did not respond

Company non-response
8 March 2020

Fila did not respond

Company non-response
8 March 2020

Victoria's Secret did not respond

Article
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Author: AFP

« De grandes marques liées au travail forcé des Ouïghours en Chine, selon une ONG » 2 mars 2020

La Chine a transféré des dizaines de milliers de membres de la minorité musulmane ouïghoure, détenus dans des camps d'internement, vers des usines fournissant au moins 80 des plus grandes marques mondiales, affirme lundi un centre de réflexion australien dans un rapport détaillé.

Entre 2017 et 2019, plus de 80.000 Ouïghours ainsi emprisonnés dans la région du Xinjiang (nord-ouest) ont été transférés ailleurs en Chine dans des usines "appartenant aux chaînes d'approvisionnement de 83 marques connues mondialement dans la technologie, le textile et l'automobile", affirme l'Institut australien de stratégie politique (ASPI).

"Des usines recourent au travail forcé des Ouïghours dans le cadre d'un mécanisme de transfert encadré par l'Etat (chinois)", explique-t-il dans un volumineux rapport.

Parmi les marques épinglées se trouvent de grands noms de l'électronique (Apple, Sony, Samsung, Microsoft, Nokia, etc.), du textile (Adidas, Lacoste, Gap, Nike, Puma, Uniqlo, H&M, etc.) et de l'automobile (BMW, Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz, Land Rover, Jaguar, etc.). Le groupe français Alstom est aussi cité...

Volkswagen et Daimler font valoir que les entreprises mises en cause ne font pas partie de leurs fournisseurs directs.

BMW, qui "ne peux pas commenter le contenu" du rapport, indique que des "questions de droits humains" font partie des critères de sélection des partenaires et assure que ses sous-traitants directs doivent "appliquer la même politique avec leurs propres fournisseurs".

Apple renvoie à un engagement qu'il a pris par le passé à "ce que tous dans les chaînes de production soient traités avec la dignité et le respect qu'ils méritent", disant "travailler étroitement" avec ses fournisseurs pour que "les normes les plus élevées soient appliquées".

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