Blog: Leonie BarrieForced labour links to China raw materials

Leonie Barrie | 16 September 2019

New research suggests all supply chains linked to China are at risk of having an association with forced labour, since raw materials such as cotton produced in the Xinjiang region – notorious for its links to ongoing human rights abuses – are being used in manufacturing in other countries.

And another new report has surfaced alleging that many of the top fashion brands pledging to end worker exploitation in supply chains are instead hampering progress through "irresponsible sourcing practices."

Economic data shows Romania continues to draw big fashion outsourcing contracts, yet the country’s clothing and textile workers are suffering from low wages compared with other sectors.

And new mandatory requirements for corporate social responsibility (CSR) programmes in India are forcing the country's garment exporters to refocus on community development schemes and make special provisions to record all expenditure in this area.

But while leading global fashion players are making progress towards embracing sustainable fashion, a significant amount of work still needs to be done to adopt the various measures already in place – particularly with regard to climate change.

Jordanian garment manufacturers and supporting institutions like the International Labour Organization's Better Work Jordan initiative plan to introduce garment design training to add value to a sector that is primarily 'cut and sew.'

And clothing industry sources in the Philippines say the country is one of the few that has not seen a boost in garment export orders as a result of the US-China trade war – despite the government's plan to boost local manufacturing capacity. 

The latest move in the ongoing trade spat has seen President Donald Trump agree to delay by two weeks the next tariff increase on US$250bn worth of imports from China.

But US clothing retailer Urban Outfitters says that rather than resorting to price hikes, its focus will be on sourcing from other countries and negotiating with existing suppliers to mitigate the tariff impact.

And ahead of its planned spin-off from Gap Inc next year, Old Navy has revealed it intends to almost double its store count across North America as it aims for US$10bn in annual sales – with its supply chain key to driving margin expansion and more frequent purchases.

Meanwhile, in other news, 12 innovative start-ups have been chosen for an accelerator programme; Inditex Group has reported a rise in first-half sales and profits; and H&M has become the latest apparel retailer to suspend the sourcing of leather from Brazil over environmental concerns.

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