The Better Cotton Initiative has suspended its activities in Xinjiang in China on the back of concerns over the prevalence of labour abuses in the region.
BCI said it would suspend its assurance activities in the region for the 2020-21 cotton season “based on the recognition that the operating environment prevents credible assurance and licensing from being executed.”
It has also contracted a “recognised global expert” to conduct an external review to document the situation in Western China, evaluate the risk level and propose mitigation and remediation steps.
Though it is not licensing any Better Cotton from Xinjiang for the coming season, the BCI will continue to support farmers in the region during this period.
“We remain committed to our mission: to make global cotton production better for the people who produce it, better for the environment in which it grows and better for the sector’s future. These actions put us in a better position to further that mission while upholding the high standards rightly expected by BCI stakeholders. We will continue to engage with all concerned parties and experts to adapt and respond to challenging contexts so that we can further support farming communities and promote more sustainable practices,” it said.
Earlier this month a study from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) alleged more than 80,000 Uyghurs were transferred out of Xinjiang between 2017-19 to work in factories including ones making garments and footwear.
Following this a coalition of trade bodies representing US apparel and footwear brands and retailers called on the US government to help find a solution that protects the right of workers and the integrity of global supply chains, leading to US lawmakers proposing legislation to ban goods made with forced labour in China’s Xinjiang region from entering the country.