Marks & Spencer has signed a call to action on forced labour and human rights abuses against the Uighur people in the cotton fields in China’s Xinjiang region, according to BBC News.
In December, 2020, the BBC unearthed new evidence that China is forcing hundreds of thousands of Uighurs and other minorities into tough manual labour, which subsequently led to increased pressure on clothing manufacturers and retailers to remove cotton produced in Xinjiang from their supply chains.
The report says that M&S uses around 40,000 tons of lint cotton every year from different sources. The retailer sources its cotton through businesses accredited with the sustainability focused Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), which suspended its activities in Xinjiang in March, 2020.
As a result, there has been no new BCI licensed cotton coming from the region, or being used for M&S production.
It has been made clear by the coalition that any brand currently sourcing apparel, textiles, yarn or cotton from the Xinjiang region is profiting from human rights violations, which includes forced labour.
The BBC says that Anti-Slavery International has welcomed the move by M&S and is encouraging other retailers to follow suit and sign up.
Xinjiang reportedly accounts for approximately 20% of the worlds cotton production, emphasising how huge the issue is.