As Christians, we believe that all of humanity is created in God’s image. Every person is worthy of dignity because of their inherent value. Ethnicity, religion, culture, gender or any other characteristic are never grounds for discrimination or persecution.
The systems and structures we create to enable us all to live should not come at the expense of people or planet. Our clothes, food, goods and services must enable everyone to flourish – in how they are created and used.
However, around the world there are injustices embedded into our supply chains and practices. Forced labour, slavery and unfair conditions are all present in the processes which produce everyday items and essential goods.
The biblical calling to love our neighbour means we are called to stand against these injustices. We can be empowered to do this by making conscious choices about the ethical standards products we buy adhere to, and by engaging with the companies who make them to call for high standards.
Importantly, we can ask for:
- Transparency in supply chains
- High ethical standards in procurement and supply
- Robust policies to ensure consistently high standards
As consumers, we have the power to influence and shape the policies of the companies we buy from.
What’s happening in China?
Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang, China, are facing persecution based on their religion and culture. An estimated one million people have been detained by the Chinese Government, put into labour camps or moved to other regions to labour. They have been subject to human rights abuse, include mass arbitrary detainment, forced sterilisation, family separation and forced labour.
Around 20% of the world’s cotton is produced in the Xinjiang region in China. This cotton is exported internally in China as a raw product and then exported around the world as threads, fabrics and garments.
According to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, around 80 brands are “potentially directly or indirectly benefitting” from the forced labour of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang. This includes Adidas, Nike and Gap.
This isn’t just a matter of unjust supply chains. It’s part of a bigger picture of Human Rights issues in Xinjiang.
Greater transparency on how cotton production is playing a part in the persecution of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang is one step on the path to justice.
If you want to learn more, why not read this case study about garment factory workers in Bangladesh?
One of the ways we can be a force for good against human rights abuse in supply chains is by choosing to buy from companies that uphold high ethical standards.
Brands can choose a variety of different ways to publically confirm to consumers that their products are being produced ethically, without the use of forced labour. The Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) is a key example of this, as the largest cotton sustainability programme in the world. For suppliers to become a part of the BCI, they must meet a set of criteria which includes promoting ‘decent work’ through ensuring there is no forced labour within their production. Significantly, the Better Cotton Initiative chose to suspend certificating cotton produced in the Xinjiang region in October 2020, as they were unable to confirm that these criteria were being stratified.
Because of consumer pressure, lots of companies have already chosen to divest from any supply chain which includes Uyghur forced labour, or isn’t clear on its ethical standpoint. Below are some of them, and you can read more here.
- ASOS plc
- Eileen Fisher
- Marks and Spencer Group plc
- OVS S.p.A
- TFG Limited (Hobbs, Phase Eight, Whistles)
- WE Fashion
Take action by writing to a brand (or two) where you frequently shop. We’ve made it really easy to write.