Members of the Cotton Campaign, including Anti-Slavery International and the International Labor Rights Forum, express their disappointment that H&M’s recent announcement does not go far enough to ensure that it is not complicit in the use of state-sponsored forced labour in Uzbekistan’s cotton industry.
H&M has recently announced that it will ask suppliers and critical fabric mills to sign a commitment that their cotton does not come from Uzbekistan. It says that those who do not sign the commitment will not be allowed to work with H&M. This announcement follows the Cotton Campaign’s lengthy engagement with H&M, during which we have been calling for the steps set out in the Daewoo Protocol to be implemented. We are asking that H&M put language into their vendor agreements prohibiting the use of Uzbek cotton, which would put their commitment not to use cotton produced with forced labour into practice, and ensure this message reaches right down H&M’s supply chain.
State-sponsored forced labour in the cotton sector of Uzbekistan continues, and companies have a responsibility to conduct due diligence to ensure that they do not support the forced labour system with their purchasing.
H&M has a code of conduct that includes a prohibition of forced labour in the production of goods for H&M. H&M has signed the Company Pledge to work to ensure that forced child labour does not find its way into the company’s products.
The Cotton Campaign asks H&M to implement its commitments by taking the following steps, known as the Daewoo Protocol:
- Establish a company policy that prohibits the use of Uzbek cotton and prohibits business with companies that are either invested in the cotton sector in Uzbekistan or using Uzbek cotton, including explicitly all companies of Daewoo International Corporation and the list of companies operating in Uzbekistan incorporated into the list here;
- Implement the company policy on Uzbek cotton by incorporating language into vendor agreements and purchase orders that effectively prohibits suppliers from doing business with all companies of Daewoo International Corporation and the attached list of companies
- Require suppliers, suppliers’ subsidiaries and suppliers’ affiliates to (a) establish a company policy that prohibits business with companies that are either invested in the cotton sector in Uzbekistan or using Uzbek cotton, including explicitly all companies/subsidiaries of Daewoo International Corporation, and (b) incorporate language into vendor agreements and purchase orders that prohibits their suppliers from doing business with all companies/subsidiaries of Daewoo International Corporation;
- Remove all companies/subsidiaries of Daewoo International Corporation from your company’s supplier database. Lock suppliers out of your company’s supplier database that have not signed the revised vendor agreement and fully complied with point 3;
- Verify compliance with the company policy by incorporating a Daewoo check into supplier social compliance audits; and
- Release documentation of these steps to the Cotton Campaign.
Despite having signed the Company Pledge, it was the Cotton Campaign that informed H&M that they were purchasing from Daewoo. Importantly, H&M has established a policy and is in the process of requiring its direct, first tier, suppliers to sign a commitment to that policy and disqualifying companies that do not commit from business with H&M. Unfortunately, the risk that slave-made cotton enters H&M’s products will remain until the company pushes the policy down the next tiers of their supply chain, as outlined in the steps 3-5 of the protocol.
The Daewoo Protocol highlights Daewoo International Corporation, a subsidiary of the South Korean steel company POSCO that operates three cotton processing facilities in Uzbekistan and accounts for approximately 20% of all cotton processed in the country. As a direct beneficiary of state-sponsored forced labour in Uzbekistan, Daewoo is clearly violating international standards by exploiting children and adults for profit. The Protocol addresses the dynamism of the apparel industry by holistically introducing controls into companies’ supply chain management to ensure that any and all companies profiting from forced labor in the Uzbek cotton sector do not receive their business.
The Cotton Campaign calls on H&M to implement its pledge by implementing the Daewoo Protocol to ensure that there is no Uzbek cotton and no companies profiting from Uzbek cotton in the H&M supply chain.