// M&S signs up to the Call to Action to drive change at scale in China’s Xinjiang region, where Uighur people live
// Center for Global Policy found at least half a million Uighur people have been forced to pick cotton by hand amid an ongoing anti-Muslim crackdown
// The Call to Action notes that more than 80% of China’s cotton is grown in Xinjiang, almost 20% of global production
M&S has become one of the first retailers to formally sign the Call to Action that urges brands to exit China’s Xinjiang region in the wake of human rights abuses against Uighur people.
The British high street stalwart said throwing its support behind the Call to Action was in line with its long-term focus on ensuring its supply chains are sustainable and ethical, where workers are treated fairly, and that human rights are respected.
As the Call to Action notes, more than 80 per cent of China’s cotton is grown in Xinjiang, approaching almost 20 per cent of global production.
- Fashion retailers must prove products have no Uighur slave labour involvement, says MP
- Boohoo, Nike and H&M deny Uighur forced labour in supply chains
- Alibaba’s facial recognition tech could be being used to identify Uighurs
In late 2020, a report from US-based think tank Center for Global Policy found at least half a million Uighur people have been forced to pick cotton by hand amid an ongoing anti-Muslim crackdown by Beijing that has seen people detained and put into alleged re-education camps.
In response to mounting evidence of forced labour and modern slavery, the Coalition – supported by groups including the Ethical Trading Initiative – has set out a series of asks of businesses to ensure that their full supply chains are not linked to the human rights abuses in the region.
M&S said 100 per cent of the cotton used for M&S clothing was sustainably sourced and that it was already one of the few retailers that does not work with any supplier in or source from Xinjiang.
“At M&S, sourcing ethically and sustainably is core to how we do business and the promise we make to our customers, that’s why we do not source cotton from Xinjiang,” M&S Clothing & Home managing director Richard Price said.
“100 per cent of the cotton in our clothing is more sustainably sourced – from the Better Cotton Initiative material used in our Good Move gym leggings, to the organic cotton in our baby clothes.
“When it comes to sustainable and ethical clothing, we can only achieve real change at scale by working with others, which is why we are proud to be formally supporting the coalition and providing additional assurance to our customers they can purchase from M&S with confidence.”
Anti-Slavery International chief executive Jasmine O’Connor said: “We welcome the leadership shown by M&S today to commit publicly to the Call to Action, providing assurance to its consumers that M&S products will not be linked to the abuses of Uighurs.
“The Call to Action sets out a clear path of action for brands to follow in line with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and we call upon other major brands to follow suit with M&S and commit to the Call to Action urgently.”