A Global, Collaborative Approach to the Xinjiang Issue

Representing predominantly small and medium sized apparel brands, apparel manufacturers and their associations, and global suppliers to the industry, IAF represents directly and indirectly hundreds of thousands of companies.

The apparel and textile industries are made up of the world’s longest and most globally dispersed supply chains, employing tens of millions of workers in total. The wellbeing of all of these workers is a responsibility shared among industry and governments and is crucial to a strong industry.

A global system binding together so many people and natural resources is bound to face challenges continuously. The UN Guiding Principles and their translation by the OECD to the apparel and textile industries have provided a global framework to find solutions to complex supply chain challenges related to labour and human rights. This framework does justice to the global nature and to the complexity of the supply chains by focusing on well balanced and collaborative approaches to find solutions that are profound and lasting.

Currently the apparel and textile industries is rocked by the ultimate supply chain shock of the Covid-19 crisis. In its shadow, but still significant,multiple reports on adverse human rights impacts in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) as well as private and public reactions targeting imports from this region have a large potential impacton apparel supply chains as well. Providing roughly 80% of the China’s cotton production and thereby roughly 20% of the world’s cotton use, the region is inextricably connected to the apparel and textile supply chain on a vast scale.

IAF calls for a global, balanced and inclusive approach to this situation, requiring collaborative partnerships across government, industry (small and large) and other stakeholders. This approach avoids measures that can be deployed quickly but that inevitably hurt a huge number of businesses and their employees acting in good faith. Fortunately, the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the more detailed OECD’s due diligence guidance for responsible supply chains in the garment and footwear sector provide clear roadmaps to navigate the complex landscape of the Xinjiang situation. This is the time to make sure we use the best of global tools available to us