Photo Credit: The Japan Times
Back in April 2021 we talked about the proposed bill to ban goods produced in Xinjiang, China in an effort to fight against the human rights abuses taking place against the Uyghur people there. After some push back from major brands like Nike, Apple, and Coca Cola, the bill finally passed with overwhelming bipartisan support on December 16th, 2021. Here's the update and the scoop on why some companies are not on board.
Why is The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act needed?
The US has accused the China of continually employing slavery and genocide to the predominately muslim Uyghur people in the Xinjiang area of China. This sizeable region in northwest China holds 11 million people who identify as muslim, speak a Turkic language rather than Mandarin, and refer to the region as East Turkestan and desire more autonomy or even a separate state from the Chinese communist government. The Chinese government has claimed terrorism concerns and placed more than one million people from this ethnic minority in "re-education camps" while they continually deny the allegations of forced labor, rape, sterilization, and torture. (USA Today).
What does The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act do?
The US (both Trump and Biden administrations) had already issued sanctions on China and limited imports on cotton and tomato products as far back as 2019. (The National Law Review) But this updated bill bans products from this region outright and forces companies to ensure nothing from their supply chain comes from the Xinjiang region. Co-Author of the bill, Senator Marco Rubio (Florida) said on Thursday, when the bill was passed (December 16th, 2021), "Many companies have already taken steps to clean up their supply chains. And, frankly, they should have no concerns about this law. For those who have not done that, they'll no longer be able to continue to make Americans - every one of us, frankly - unwitting accomplices in the atrocities, in the genocide." (BBC)
Why is Nike against The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act?
The short story is the supply chain is messy and hard to ensure. The issue many brands have with tracing their supply chain is ensuring the same standards at every level, especially when it goes to tier 3 and 4 where brands often do not have visibility on their products. Beyond your first tier cut and sew factory and your textile mills, you have the ginning, the spinning, and the growing of the cotton too, not to mention any subcontracted work conducted without your consent.
The US ban looks like this:
Since 20% of the world's cotton is produced in Xinjiang, China and 50% of the world's cotton is spun there, this presents a large problem for many brands. A bipartisan report in March 2020 listed the following fashion companies as suspected to have supply chain ties to this region: Nike, H&M, Adidas, Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, and Patagonia.
There's no doubt this will be a challenge for brands and will involve a great deal of investment in block chain technology to increase their supply chain transparency and traceability. However, some companies like Nike seem to be investing in a different direction. The New York Times reported, " In the first three quarters of 2020, Nike spent $920,000 on in-house lobbying of Congress and other federal agencies. Disclosures do not break down expenditures by topic, but show Nike lobbied on matters including physical education grants, taxes and climate change, as well as the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act. Furthermore, the only senator not to sign The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act has shares in Nike.
What can you do? Start securing
Step one is getting each layer of your supply chain secure. If you are interested in sourcing new cut and sew factories or textile mills who are ethical and sustainable and NOT from the Xinjiang region of China, schedule a call with our team to demo the platform and learn how we can help you more easily navigate your sourcing. *If you'd also love to learn more about blockchain and other digital solutions that can further improve your sourcing and sustainability efforts, subscribe to our weekly newsletter today.
Image from Ecotextile News