Rising Tensions Put Supply Chains in the Spotlight

This week, 72 Uyghur rights groups were joined by over 100 civil society organizations and labor unions from around the world in a call to action on apparel brands and retailers. They are asking companies to comply with three main requests within the next twelve months: halt the sourcing of cotton, yarn, textiles, and finished products from the Uyghur region in China; cut ties with companies implicated in forced labor (those that have operations in the Uyghur region and government-supplied labor at these operations and/or have accepted government subsidies); and prohibit any factories located outside of the region from using Uyghurs or Turkic or Muslim workers supplied through the Chinese government.

The Jing Take: 

In February of this year, a study from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) implicated 83 global brands in the use of Chinese supply chains which, they say, involve Uyghur forced labor. The credibility of the report has been questioned by the Chinese government, and Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Zhao Lijian, responded on Monday saying, “The claims are groundless.” Yet, outrage has been growing around the world over claims the Chinese government is detaining more than one million Uyghurs and other Turkic and Muslim people in western Chinese regions, including Xinjiang.

The complexity of modern global supply chains allows for a certain cognitive dissonance in consumer economies’ complicity in violations of human rights; brands shirk moral responsibility while benefiting from the offshoring of production. According to the Uighur Human Rights Project, roughly 1 in 5 cotton garments sold globally contains cotton and/or yarn from the Uyghur Region. The group also states that reputable media outlets have inculpated a wide range of brands and groups: from PHV and Adidas to Victoria’s Secret, Patagonia and Tommy Hilfiger. Now, with heightened industry pressure demanding transparency of logistics, companies and brands are more easily held accountable for a lack of due diligence. After all, the onus is on them to ensure the purity of their supply chains.

The Jing Take reports on a piece of the leading news and presents our editorial team’s analysis of the key implications for the luxury industry. In the recurring column, we analyze everything from product drops and mergers to heated debate sprouting on Chinese social media.

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