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TOKYO – New research has found that most Japanese apparel companies fall short on human rights issues. Business & Human Rights Resource Centre and Human Rights Now, an international human rights NGO based in Japan, surveyed the human rights policies and practices of the top 62 apparel companies operating in Japan, looking at both domestic businesses and international retailers with offices in the country. Despite individual approaches and reminders over a period of several months, only a third – 21 companies – responded to the survey. Moreover, only half of the top ten apparel companies in the country responded, and only 37 per cent of the top 30, while some companies even stated it was their policy not to respond to human rights related surveys.  

The survey found that a small number of leading companies have policies and procedures in place to prevent and remedy negative impacts their business activities may have on human rights. Aside from that small group, however, most companies, it was found, are yet to take adequate measures – for example, of the 21 that responded, 9 still do not have human rights policies that make concrete reference to international human rights standards. Several companies admitted they have no procedure for remedying human rights abuses, and of those that do, most provide for them only in Japanese.

Only four companies that responded to the survey – only one of which, Fast Retailing, is Japanese – had a remedy procedure accessible in languages other than Japanese. 

Of the 21 companies which did respond, 12 companies had a human rights policy or procurement guidelines in line with international standards: Fast Retailing, Wacoal Holdings, Honeys Holdings, Daidoh, Gap, H&M, Aeon, Ito-Yokado, adidas, Asics, Mizuno, Sankisyoko (Mikihouse) and Patagonia. The remainder either had no human rights policies at all, insufficient policies (including human rights policies that did not refer to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights or ILO standards), or only general principles. Nevertheless, the number of companies which have established CSR procurement guidelines seems to be increasing. 3 companies out of the 21 that responded had no procurement guidelines for their suppliers, nor any implementation mechanism for their human rights policies.  

Notably, 8 companies stated they did not conduct human rights due diligence. Whilst  H&M, adidas, Gap, Patagonia, Fast Retailing, Asics, and Mizuno stated they conduct human rights due diligence , only 6 of the remaining 14 domestic Japanese companies had a process in place. Only 14 companies carry out regular human rights audits of their suppliers.

On the positive side, several companies stated that they had started to strengthen their human rights measures, at least partially because of the survey.


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