Despite being aware of the human rights abuses within the Xinjiang province and other parts of the world, several major companies, including Coca-Cola, Nike and Apple, have allegedly fought against efforts to stop the practice of forced labor.
Over 1 million Uyghur Muslims are imprisoned in forced labor and re-education camps in China’s Xinjiang province, a large producer of cotton products and computer parts. The province is suspected of using slave labor to meet the large demand for their products, much of which comes from large corporations.
The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act passed the House by a vote of 403-6 in September. The bill would ban all imported goods from Xinjiang made with forced labor. After its passage, Nike, Coca-Cola, Apple and other corporations began fighting to weaken the language in the bill, arguing while that they do condemn human rights abuses, the bill would harm the supply chains in China that they rely on, the New York Times reported. (RELATED: REPORT: Coca-Cola, Nike Push Back On Legislation That Would Crack Down On Forced Labor In China)
Both Coca-Cola and Nike have been linked to the Xinjiang region. Coca-Cola has been allegedly connected to sugar sourced from the region, and a factory in Qingdao that makes Nike shoes reportedly used Uyghur workers. The bipartisan Congressional-Executive Commission on China listed Nike, Coca-Cola, Adidas, Calvin Klein, Campbell Soup Company, Costco, H&M, Patagonia, Tommy Hilfiger and other companies as suspected of having ties to forced labor in Xinjiang, the Times reported.
Apple, Coca-Cola, Nike, and other multinational corporations are working to weaken the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act in the US Congress, concerned about legally having to avoid the use of slave labour from religious minorities in concentration camps https://t.co/lv8gzmgsiw
— Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) November 29, 2020
Coca-Cola pushed back on the report in a statement to the Daily Caller.
“The Coca-Cola Company strictly prohibits any type of forced labor in our supply chain and expect our suppliers to uphold the principles of our Human Rights Policy,” the company said. “Our Supplier Guiding Principles (SGP), which are aligned with our Human Rights Policy, are a part of all contractual agreements between The Coca-Cola Company and our direct and authorized suppliers. We closely monitor the implementation of our Supplier Guiding Principles by utilizing independent third parties to audit.
“The COFCO Tunhe facility in Xinjiang supplies sugar to a local bottling facility in the region,” they continued. “It successfully completed an audit in 2019.”
“[Coca-Cola] sought to explain that [Coca-Cola] does not import goods from COFCO Tunhe or the Xinjiang Region into the US, and therefore there was no reason to be cited in the Congressional Executive Commission on China’s initial report as it inaccurately characterized [Coca-Cola]’s activity,” the company added.
Nike also denied lobbying against the Uyghur Forced Labor Protection Act or sourcing products from Xinjiang.
“Nike has long prioritized constructive discussions on issues of respecting human rights and enabling responsible manufacturing with Members of Congress, congressional staff and other government officials,” Nike told the Daily Caller in a statement. “We regularly provide insight and feedback at the request of policymakers on a wide range of public policy issues and have not lobbied against the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, or any other proposed forced labor legislation.”
“We do not source products from [Xinjiang] and we have confirmed with our contract suppliers that they are not using textiles or spun yarn from the region,” they said. Nike also included a link to their full statement about the issue on their website.
In November, the Washington Post reported that Apple was one of several companies attempting to weaken the language in the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act. Forced Uyghur labor has allegedly been used in Apple’s supply chain, which is heavily dependent on products sourced from China. (RELATED: Report: Apple Is Lobbying To Soften Bill That Fights Forced Labor In China)
It’s unclear which provisions in the bill Apple is opposed to, but two congressional staffers reportedly told the Post that the company is one of many attempting to change the bill.
“We abhor forced labor and support the goals of the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act,” Apple spokesperson Josh Rosenstock told the Washington Post. “We share the committee’s goal of eradicating forced labor and strengthening U.S. law, and we will continue working with them to achieve that.”
Rosenstock said that Apple conducted an investigation into their suppliers in China earlier this year and “found no evidence of forced labor on Apple production lines.”
Apple did not respond to a request for comment.
Nestlé and Cargill are facing allegations that child slavery was used in West Africa to produce the cocoa that the companies purchase. The Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday from six former child slaves who say the companies should have monitored their supply chains more effectively and should be held responsible.
The two companies argued in court that while they “unequivocally condemns child slavery,” they should not be subject to suit for aiding and abetting child slavery because they are corporations. Instead, they argue, the individual traffickers and farmers involved should be the ones charged.
Third, Alito (!) asks Katyal: If a U.S. corporation hired foreign agents to kidnap children and hold them in bondage on a plantation in Africa, could those children sue the corporation in U.S. courts under this law?
Katyal says: Nope. pic.twitter.com/WWcj9oPjrH
— Mark Joseph Stern (@mjs_DC) December 1, 2020
“Cargill does not tolerate the use of child labor in our operations or supply chains,” the company told the Daily Caller in a statement. “We continue to actively combat any such practices in our supply chains and to address the root causes of child labor, including poverty and lack of education access.”
Cargill said that they are working to end child labor through their Child Labor Monitoring and Remediation System, and have “recently invested $12.3 million toward cocoa sustainability and traceability programs that will create more jobs while enhancing the safety and well-being of farming families.”
A Nestlé spokesperson told the Daily Caller that the company has “explicit policies” against child labor and that they “remain committed to combatting child labor within the cocoa supply chain and addressing its root causes.”
“The allegations against us are neither grounded in the law nor supported by facts,” the spokesperson continued. “Plaintiffs’ lawyers themselves concede that Nestlé never engaged in the egregious child labor alleged in this suit. Federal Courts have repeatedly dismissed this case over the past 15 years because plaintiffs’ lawyers simply cannot support the assertion that the company aided and abetted forced child labor.”
Nestlé also implemented the Child Labor Monitoring and Remediation System, the spokesperson said.