H&M will not source cotton from Turkmenistan and Syria

H&M will not source cotton from Turkmenistan and Syria

Swedish fashion giant Hennes & Mauritz (H&M) has placed a ban on sourcing cotton from Turkmenistan and Syria in a bid to eradicate forced labour from its supply chain.

The ban, which has been in place since December, requires all suppliers working with H&M to sign a commitment that they don't buy cotton from either of the two countries. Those that refuse will not be allowed to work with the retailer. 

"The reason for this ban is that H&M, under no circumstances, accepts underage workers and/or forced labour being used anywhere in our value chain, including in cotton cultivation," the retail group said. "Unfortunately this is sometimes the case in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan and H&M does therefore not accept conventional cotton from Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan or Syria in our products."

A report last month on the 2015 cotton harvest in Turkmenistan revealed that the government had forced more people to pick cotton and ramped up the pressure to deliver harvest quotas in response to a late and low-yield harvest.

According to human rights group Alternative Turkmenistan News (ATN), tens of thousands of citizens were mobilised to pick cotton, including students and teachers. Children were also co-opted into the harvest in one particular area.

Forced labour blights Turkmenistan cotton harvest

H&M has had an equivalent ban on cotton from Uzbekistan since 2013. As part of its sustainability goals the retail group is targeting that by 2020 at the latest, all cotton used in its products comes from sustainable sources – organic, recycled or from the Better Cotton initiative – and is therefore fully traceable.

H&M adds transparency to yarn and fabric suppliers