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5 Mar 2021

China: Auditors, certification firms & organisations answer questions on their approach in Xinjiang as forced labour concerns grow

Reports have alleged that millions of Uyghurs and other ethnic-minorities have been detained in re-education camps and forced to work in factories in Xinjiang. Mounting evidence has indicated that these supply major global companies. Business & Human Rights Resource Centre has been covering growing concerns around this issue, including government, civil society and business responses, here.

As part of this coverage, we featured a letter by Swedish public procurer Adda, the Swedish Regions’ National Secretariat for Sustainable Procurement and the Church of Sweden, requiring suppliers to take certain actions and monitor human rights risks, including forced labour. Many companies rely on social audits to verify facilities, yet concerns have been raised about their limitations in detecting forced labour abuses. We therefore reached out to audit firms, certification schemes and organisations with the following questions, to better understand their approach:

  • Have you been able to conduct audits/certifications/impact assessments in Xinjiang in recent years?
  • What possible problems have you encountered during audits/certifications/impact assessments in Xinjiang?
  • How do you assess the migrant situation at manufacturing facilities outside Xinjiang, i.e. how do you ensure that the migrant experience is taken into account?
  • What indicators do you use to identify workers from Xinjiang who have been sent by the government?
  • To what extent have you integrated the type of questions listed in:
    1. the Responsible Sourcing Tool’s Supplier Self-Assessment, in order to capture forced labor in interviews with company management?
    2. the Responsible Sourcing Tool’s Migrant Worker Interviews, in order to capture forced labor in interviews with migrant workers?
  • How do you ensure that migrants can participate in interviews without outside interference or pressure?
  • How do you work with translators in relation to migrant workers? Do you have your own translators covering all relevant languages (including Uyghur) or are you assigned state translators?

In February 2021, Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited Bureau Veritas, Deloitte, Environmental Resources Management (ERM), Ernst & Young, Intertek, KPMG, Sedex and Social Accountability International to respond to these questions on their auditing approach in Xinjiang. ERM, Intertek, Sedex and Social Accountability International responded. Bureau Veritas, Deloitte, Ernst & Young and KPMG did not respond.

In a second round of outreach in March 2021, Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited Nemko, PwC, SGS, TCO Certified, TÜV Rheinland and UL to respond to the same set of questions. SGS, TCO Certified and TÜV Rheinland responded. Nemko, PwC and UL did not respond.

In a third round of outreach in April and May 2021, Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited BSI, DNV GL, DQS CFS, ELEVATE and TÜV SÜD to respond to the same set of questions. DQS CFS, ELEVATE and TÜV SÜD responded. BSI and DNV GL did not respond.

All response statements are available below.

Please see the stories linked below for more information related to alleged forced labour abuses in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region: