Modern slavery allegations burn clothing supply chains
- Recent investigations into retailers' supply chains found rampant human rights abuses within the supply chains of online fashion merchant ASOS, British luxury retailer Marks & Spencer and Japanese casual wear retailer Uniqlo.
- A BBC investigation found Turkish textile factories exploiting child labor, asking 7 and 8-year-old children to work 60-hour weeks and underpaying Syrian refugees, Forbes reported Tuesday.
- Meanwhile advocacy group War on Want recently noted Uniqlo's suppliers in China frequently imposed excessive overtime, low pay, dangerous working conditions and oppressive management on workers.
Human Rights violations are still common, particularly in the low paying clothing supply chains, and consumers are taking note.
A recent report by Verisk Maplecrost said global companies with supply chain operations in 115 countries were at either "high" or "extreme" risk of association with modern slavery. While modern slavery in the supply chain and human rights abuses are an ethical dilemma for all companies, it also poses a brand risk for companies based in or operating in the U.K.
The passage of the Transparency in Supply Chain Provisions of the Kingdom's Modern Slavery Act requires companies grossing more than $44 million annually to report slavery risks within their supply chains and publish steps taken to address these. The Act may not be directly enforceable, but each instance of slavery threatens the brands' reputations specially as efforts to diminish slavery fail.
The three companies in question had previously pledged to address the issue according to reports, but the suppliers have failed to improve their compliance. How the three companies address these concerns will prove an example to watch.
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