In an unprecedented move, the Fair Labor Association (FLA) has prohibited its member companies from sourcing from or producing in the Xinjiang region, in northwest China, because of growing concerns over violations of human and labor rights. The region is home to several ethnic minority groups, including the Uyghur people.
Last year, the FLA advised companies to determine whether the materials used to produce their finished goods originated in the region, and of so to presume that they were produced with forced labor. The organization said that evidence from credible sources has now shown that the policy of repression in the region continues to mount, with the Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities remaining subject to human rights abuses, such as forced labor and arbitrary detention.
In light of these ongoing practices, the FLA has therefore decided to prohibit sourcing and production – including direct and indirect sourcing of raw materials, inputs or finished products – from the Xinjiang region. The FLA, which is headquartered in Washington, DC, is a collaborative effort of socially responsible companies, universities and civil society organizations to tackle abusive labor practices. In Europe, the members of FLA include Adidas, Amer Sports, Arena, Fenix Outdoor, Gore Wear, Gymshark and Puma.
A few weeks ago, Nike, one of the numerous members of the FLA in the U.S. along with Burton and many others in the sporting goods industry, reportedly joined a lobby to soften some of the previsions of the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, a bill introduced in the U.S. Congress to ban imports of products coming from the region unless U.S. Customs and Border Protection determine that they have not been made by “convict labor, forced labor, or indentured labor under penal sanctions.”
Meanwhile, London’s BBC published a report last month claiming that handreds of thousands of ethnic Uyghurs and other inorities are being used for forced manual labor in China’s cotton fields. In reaction to the report, Marks & Spencer said it has joined the Call to Action Coalition, which asks companies to “fully extricate their supply chains from the Uyghur Region,” citing a report that 80 percent of China’s cotton is sourced there, representing 20 percent of global cotton production. The members of the coalition include Adidas, Anta Sports Products, Amazon, Foot Locker, Hanesbrands, Lululemon, Nike, VF Corp. and Zalando.