A coalition of trade associations—the National Retail Federation (NRF), American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA), Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America (FDRA), Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) and United States Fashion Industry Association (USFIA)—issued a statement Tuesday on reports of forced labor in the Xinjiang region of China.
Their statement reads:
As an industry representing brands and retailers, we do not tolerate forced labor in our supply chains.
We work together to identify and eliminate forced labor, and conditions that can lead to forced labor, in the countries from which we source products. The industry continues to evolve and improve our existing approaches to identify, detect, and address risks of forced labor in our supply chains. We actively engage countries all over the world to advance respect for human rights.
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 of a scale, scope, and complexity that is unprecedented during the modern era of global supply chains.
As acknowledged by both the U.S. government and non-government experts, the 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. Accepting the status quo is not an option.
Companies across the industry are considering all available approaches to address the situation. Brands and retailers are drawing on expert guidance and assembling industry stakeholders to address the situation. We are framing these actions through the lens of the United Nations (UN) Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and our own commitment to the fair treatment of workers in our supply chains. Our members have expressed strong concerns to their suppliers and reiterated that suppliers must maintain a supply chain that is free of involuntary and forced labor.
While we are taking action, our industry cannot solve this alone.
A successful solution for all, including the workers, will require state-to-state engagement and collaborative partnerships across government, industry, labor advocates, non-governmental organizations, and other stakeholders. 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 that target bad actors and protect the rights of workers and the integrity of global supply chains.
Photo courtesy Reuters