ETI published (in July 2020) a statement on the forced labour affecting Uyghur workers as well as workers from other Turkic- and Muslim-majority groups in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in China. The statement focused on the responsibilities of businesses whose supply chains may have links to these human rights abuses, building on ETI’s briefing note on State-Imposed Forced Labour published in 2019.
The Coalition to End Uyghur Forced Labour earlier this year published its Call to action on human rights abuses in the Uyghur Region in the apparel and textiles sector (updated October 2020). The Call to Action included a ‘Brand Commitment to Exit the Uyghur Region and Prevent Use of Forced Labour of Uyghur and Other Turkic and Muslim-Majority Peoples’, which set out a series of asks of businesses in order to ensure that their supply chains are not linked to these human rights abuses. The Coalition called on brands and retailers in the apparel and textile sector to take the actions listed in the Brand Commitment.
The Call to Action has stimulated a great deal of positive dialogue and action. It sets out a clear path of action for businesses to follow, in line with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which ETI welcomes.
ETI’s role and support for the Call to Action
As this is perhaps the most significant global business and human rights issue at the present time, ETI is committed to continuing to work with its membership to address it. There are a number of difficult and as yet unresolved practical questions for business to address, including but not limited to:
How to trace supply chains back to the raw material stage in order to map any links to the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region
How to conduct due diligence on suppliers elsewhere in China in an effective manner while safeguarding local teams and third-party auditors
How to provide effective remedy in the case that any affected workers are found in a supplier facility – a question which can only be answered in collaboration with Uyghur rights groups
ETI will work with the Coalition and other engaged organisations to gather examples of good practice and common challenges in relation to these questions, and to formulate technical guidance to business to support them in taking action.
We hope that this work will support the implementation of the Call to Action by providing additional tools to those businesses that have already signed up. We also hope that, as answers to these questions begin to emerge, more businesses will feel able to sign up.
While it must be the decision of each business individually whether to sign up to the Call to Action, ETI strongly encourages every business that feels it can to do so.
While it must be the decision of each business individually whether to sign up to the Call to Action, ETI strongly encourages every business that feels it can to do so. ETI will work with its member businesses to support them to sign – and will support those that have signed to implement the Brand Commitment as rapidly and effectively as possible.
For further information please contact Owain Johnstone, Policy Advisor