Witnesses representing supply chain operations at major retailers are to give oral evidence at a Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee inquiry looking at what steps companies are taking to ensure they do not benefit, directly or indirectly, from forced labour or exploitation.
Boohoo, H&M, and The North Face parent company VF Corporation, as well as Nike and TikTok, will appear before the Committee on Thursday to give evidence at an inquiry that BEIS describes as exploring the extent to which supply chains in the UK are exploiting the forced labour of Uyghur in the Xinjiang region of China.
Nusrat Ghani, Conservative MP for Wealden, and lead BEIS Committee member for the forced labour in UK value chains inquiry, said: “There is evidence of mass atrocities taking place in the XInjiang region. It’s a horrifying thought that British consumers could be unknowingly supporting businesses that actually profit from some of the actions taking place in Xinjiang, including the forced labour of Uighurs.
In written evidence submitted ahead of the evidence session Boohoo told the Committee: “We have carried out an initial assessment of our China supply base and do not believe that we are directly engaging with any factories in the XUAR to produce our products. In addition, we do not knowingly source any fabric from this region.
“We have written directly to all our Tier 1 suppliers, with clear expectations that no sourcing takes place from this region. Unlike most other retailers, a large proportion of our suppliers are based in the UK.
“As a fast-growing business, we are working hard to increase visibility across our supply base. Achieving supply chain transparency is a significant undertaking that requires co-operation from a very large number of stakeholders. Mapping supply chains through to raw materials like cotton can be especially challenging, as it as a crop that is often blended with inputs from many different regions.”
H&M told the Committee in written evidence: “We strictly prohibit any type of forced labour in our supply chains or operations, regardless of the market or region and we take seriously any allegations made about H&M Group or its conduct.
“To ensure transparency of our supply chain, we have chosen to make public our supplier list that includes all our suppliers and their manufacturing and processing factories, accounting for all of the own-brand products we sell. Additionally, it includes the names and locations of the 300 most important mills that provide our suppliers with fabrics and yarns, including spinning, tanneries, fabric dyeing, and printing. None of the manufacturing factories or mills are based in the region….”
North Face parent VF Corporation In written evidence that it did not source from any suppliers located in Xinjiang. “We have enhanced our supply chain traceability efforts to better identify third-party suppliers, and sub-suppliers, at deep tiers within our extended supply chain. Our increased traceability diligence gives us visibility into Tier 3 and beyond including both the origination of raw materials and commodities.
“This increased awareness provides enhanced confidence that our upstream suppliers meet and uphold our social and environmental standards, inclusive of respect for human rights.”
Luke de Pulford, Co-founder and Director at anti-slavery organisation Arise Foundation, and Maajid Nawaz, Founder of ‘counter-extremism organisation’ Quilliam International, will also give evidence, as will Nike and TikTok.
The virtual evidence session takes place at 10.30am on Thursday 5th November.