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XINJIANG – Cotton On and Target Australia have both announced they have stopped sourcing cotton from China’s Xinjiang province because of ongoing concerns about mass human rights abuses there by Chinese authorities. Reports have emerged in recent months of persecuted Uighur Muslims being forced to work in textile factories and cotton mills. In addition, recent findings from Verisk Maplecrof highlighted intensifying supply chain risks for apparel brands sourcing from Xinjiang – and China as a whole – amid expanding use of forced labour in Uighur detention camps in Xinjiang. Worryingly, it is claimed by Verisk that standard due diligence practices are unlikely to prevent links to forced labour, as Beijing will attempt to mask the traceability of goods and components. Exported raw materials from Xinjiang, particularly cotton, are also being linked to child and forced labour, raising supply chain risks in other apparel-manufacturing countries.

An equally concerning element to this story for brands is the fact that Xinjiang is easily the largest of the three main provinces which produce organic cotton in China. In fact, the most recent available figures show there was a significant increase of 52 per cent in China’s production of organic cotton in 2016/17, taking its total production to 22,521 MT, 19 per cent of total organic cotton output.

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