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SAN FRANCISCO – US denim retailer Levi Strauss has stood down from the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) leadership according to reports in the Wall Street Journal. Levi’s s chief sustainability officer, Jeff Hogue, is longer listed on the BCI Council which guides strategy at the cotton NGO. Remaining fashion retailers on the council include H&M and Adidas.

Levi’s has not issued a statement to explain why Hogue has stood down. However, several BCI members including H&M and Nike earlier this year became targets of Chinese internet users – as well as Chinese government trolls – after they had raised concerns about Xinjiang cotton. One plausible explanation is that members of BCI are sitting targets for Chinese activists and commentators who are frustrated by ongoing claims of forced labour associated with Xinjiang cotton.

BCI’s sensitivity to the issue is alluded to by the fact that it has removed comments about Xinjiang from its website. The cotton standard has also remained steadfastly silent on the issue of Xinjiang since reports of a genocide in the Chinese province have become common knowledge in the past 18 months.

BCI had previously used as its Chinese implementing partner XPCC – a Chinese Government body which overseas cotton production in Xinjiang and which has also administered forced labour schemes in the region.

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