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Apparel Company Ends Relationship with Supplier Connected to Uyghur Slave Trade

The Importance of Traceability in the Textile Supply Chain

What’s Going on in Xinjiang 

China produces around 20% of the world’s cotton. However, within that percentage, 90% of that cotton produced last year came from the Uyghur region of China. Uyghurs are people who live in the Uyghur region of China and are unfortunately being forced into slave labor by the Chinese government. It is atrocious and extremely disappointing that some parts of the world are still experiencing labor issues at the cost of basic human rights. It has become part of China’s ethnic cleansing program to have Uyghur people in forced labor. The Chinese government has been attacking and forcing the Uyghur population into forced labor and ‘re-education’ practices. This has been declared a genocide by many countries including the United States. 

There is still an issue with companies prioritizing profits over workers’ lives and utilizing cotton grown from forced labor regions worldwide. Some entities that have tried to voice their concerns are facing boycott threats by China. Some companies have declared they have no problem working with this section of China, which is a sad and astonishing stance. The United States has instituted a law that bans any products originating from or having ties to the Uyghur section of China. This has done a substantial amount for products that know they are sourcing from that area, but many products have such a murky supply chain that they don’t know if their products have ties to that. Therein lies the problem - untraceable supply chains. 

Vast Network of Major Brands Implicated in Uyghur Slave Trade

Nine Line Apparel has cut ties with its blanks supplier, Next Level Apparel, after discovering that Next Level Apparel was using cotton grown in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China - and likely using slave labor. Nine Line Apparel was proactive in taking a stance once they learned of Next Level Apparel’s affiliation. Unfortunately, not all stories are this proactive. The ambiguity of the apparel industry’s supply chain allows these bad labor pockets of textile production to continue to profit. 

Since sourcing from a generalized supply chain production system is usually the cheapest route, it is a common trend. This system yields the maximum profit for the major clothing suppliers and the people exploiting the cheap labor. Sadly these two components will keep encouraging certain suppliers in the clothing industry to use this system. It is refreshing to see companies such as Nine Line Apparel at the forefront of this issue and not allowing themselves to be a part of this inhumane regime. There is a shift in demand for the betterment of the clothing industry. The timeline for progression will only weed out both the factories and the suppliers involved in exploiting cheap labor in foreign countries.

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The End Uyghur Forced Labor Campaign

The issues facing the Uyghur region in China are being met with global attention. Expansive industries, including the automotive, retail, and manufacturing industries have unfortunately been subject to forced labor in the region. With the global community's support, a call to action is in place to end forced labor in the Uyghur region. This calls companies to exit the Uyghur Region at every level in their supply chain, from raw materials to finished products. The goal is to prevent the use of forced labor of Uyghurs and other groups in other facilities and to end relationships with suppliers supporting the forced labor system.

The coalition to end forced labor in the Uyghur Region is a coalition of civil society organizations and trade unions united to end state-sponsored forced labor and other egregious human rights abuses against people from the Uyghur Region in China, known to local people as East Turkistan. They are calling on leading companies to ensure that they are not supporting or benefiting from the pervasive and extensive forced labor of the Uyghur population and other Turkic and Muslim-majority peoples, perpetrated by the Chinese government. (Source)

What is Traceability?

The fact that cotton, one of the world’s largest textile crops, has a significant trace to this region of slave labor is obscene. As consumers, we must not let this stand. Cotton farming can be very ambiguous to the point where the farmers can identify it as any type of practice they want. Using a certifier to evaluate suppliers and supply chains with a predetermined, third-party set of standards is imperative. Oritain is a great example of this middleman. They offer detailed DNA tracking that can source precisely where the cotton used in a garment is farmed. This uses science to validate what one is being told about their own supply chain. Certifiers can be used that have the sole purpose of comparing data about supply chains, specifically cotton farming. The most recognizable ones include GOTS certification, WRAP, Oeko-Tex, and many others. The investment to acquire these certifications is worth the trust and assurance you receive from their results, and helps mitigate risk.

The apparel industry has become one of the most untraceable industries. Demanding transparency is key to ending social and environmental malpractice. Thankfully, there are things to look for now if a company is serious about the green practices they advertise. Countless certifications have the sole purpose of auditing supply chains and verifying a company’s claims. GOTS is one of the most globally recognized organic certifications that a company can obtain. It comprehensively analyzes all of the different components of a supply chain and checks them against their globally recognized sustainability standards. Obtaining this certification is time and cost-heavy, but it is necessary if a company wants to be trusted by its customers.

Other assurance certifications such as Oeko-Tex Standard 100, WRAP, FLOCERT, etc. work hard to give the company and customer peace of mind that the products are manufactured ethically. Oeko-Tex is known for certifying against toxic dyes that can be harmful to both the environment and human health, while WRAP is a comprehensive facility-based model that has made it the world’s largest independent social compliance certification program for the apparel/textile industry. FLOCERT is one of the world’s leading social auditing and verification bodies and the global certifier for Fairtrade. Fairtrade is important because it yields the best work environments and therefore the best production. All and all, these certifications enforce our dedication to an airtight supply chain that includes no forced or unfair labor.  At Original Favorites, we believe that knowledge is power and that is why so much of our efforts are dedicated to educating who we can. We have hopes of being a part of the apparel industry changing to have better accountability and higher bars to meet and will do anything we can to see that goal through.


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