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17 Jul 2023

Cotton Campaign urges German businesses to stop investments in Turkmenistan's textile industry over forced labour concerns

On 27 June 2023, seven German business associations and consulting firms - collectively representing thousands of German companies - hosted the "Turkmenistan Business Day" (Wirtschaftstag Turkmenistan) in Düsseldorf, to encourage investments in Turkmenistan, particularly in the textile, oil and gas industries. Ahead of the event, the Cotton Campaign wrote letters to the leadership of all German co-hosts, in which they raised serious concerns about the event due to widespread and systemic forced labour risks associated with cotton from Turkmenistan. The letters go on to say that all cotton in Turkmenistan is produced in a state-imposed forced labour system, under strict and full control by the government of Turkmenistan, making it impossible for international companies to conduct credible due diligence, and therefore that sourcing cotton from suppliers in Turkmenistan or from suppliers in third countries that use Turkmen cotton is in violation of the German Supply Chain Act. The Cotton Campaign urges all German business associations, consultancies, multi-stakeholder initiatives, and supply chain actors to end investments in Turkmenistan's textile industry.

None of the co-hosts responded to the letters. Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited them to comment on the event and Cotton Campaign's letter. Only one, VDMA (Mechanical Engineering Industry Association), responded. Commit Group, BVMW (German Association for Small and Medium-sized Businesses), AHV NRW (Außenhandelsverband Nordrhein-Westfalen e.V. ), Eastern Committee of German Business (OA), and IHK (Chamber of Commerce and Industry) Düsseldorf did not respond. The German-Turkmen Forum said it was inquiring about the possible sourcing of Turkmen cotton and would provide further information.

On 25 July, Cotton Campaign sent a rejoinder to VDMA, expressing concern about VDMA's approach to the situation in Turkmenistan, which is available below. Business & Human Rights Resource Centre sent the rejoinder to VDMA before publishing it on our website. VDMA declined to respond further, noting it had nothing to add to their original reply to the Cotton Campaign.