Japan strengthens human rights guarantees in textiles in Xinjiang
TOKYO – Japan’s textile industry will work with the government to track down forced labor and other human rights violations in the supply chain as part of a sourcing scrutiny.
In a report to be released on Monday, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry will call on the textile industry to develop guidelines to eliminate human rights violations and strengthen measures to deal with environmental problems. Industry will be encouraged to establish a disclosure framework for human rights due diligence.
Increased awareness of human rights issues, such as allegations of forced labor in cotton production in China’s Xinjiang region, has increased the potential exposure of Japanese companies to boycotts in the West and the outflow of investors. foreigners. This is the first government report to address the sustainability of a specific industry, according to the ministry.
The Japan Textile Federation will coordinate with the International Labor Organization to draft the guidelines by next year. They should include provisions to assess potential human rights violations regarding fair working hours and wages, as well as the presence of child labor. Companies would use the guidelines to monitor suppliers.
The federation will look to the example set by the Japan Association of Electronics and Information Technology Industries, which issued similar guidelines last year.
The United Nations and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development have established frameworks for companies to monitor supply chains for human rights violations. In June, the Group of Seven Wealthy Nations expressed concern over forced labor in the garment industry – a veiled reference to the work of the Uyghur Muslim minority that was allegedly used to produce cotton in Xinjiang.
Western clothing companies have also taken a stand against the use of Xinjiang cotton.
U.S. customs officials have blocked imports of Uniqlo shirts this year on suspicion that they were produced by forced labor in Xinjiang. French prosecutors have opened an investigation into four companies, including Fast Retailing, Uniqlo’s parent company, in connection with Uyghur work.
China is the second largest producer of cotton in the world, with the Xinjiang region accounting for over 80% of the country’s production. Although praised for their low cost and high quality, international buyers have moved further and further away from labor claims.