Editor Tasneem Khalil put together an amazing piece of work on the issue, asking why political entities (the EU) and the intergovernmental set (UNICEF) are lagging behind corporations in taking action on forced child labor in Uzbek cotton. They clearly need to do more--much more---to catch up with corporate actors who have taken the lead.There are, though, retailers who hide behind the supposed hurdle of traceability, and Khalil found that two of them--H&M and Inditex--are likely using Uzbek cotton through finished good suppliers in Bangladesh:
When I emailed H&M seeking its comment on my investigation that revealed two H&M suppliers in Bangladesh are using fabric made of Uzbek cotton in their productions, H&M emailed back: “We do not demand that our suppliers in Bangladesh keep us informed about the source of fabric or yarn. We can not exclude the possibility that some of the suppliers you have been in contact with could supply fabric or yarn for H&M products.”
Another major European company that does not publicly boycott Uzbek cotton is Inditex. As my investigation found that two Inditex brands – Zara and Bershka – are directly sourcing their garments from a supplier in Bangladesh who imports 45%-50% of its cotton from Uzbekistan, I asked Inditex for its comments on specific findings of my investigation. However, Inditex chose not to comment on those specific inquiries.
But the cotton can be traced, and is being traced by retailers who care enough to do it:
Juliette Williams [of the Environmental Justice Foundation] refuted the claim saying, “Identifying the source of cotton used by major brands and all the steps along the supply chain is possible. It can be done and has been done. No one thinks that tracing cotton is simple. But, it is certainly not impossible. Look at companies like Tesco and Wal-Mart, which have made a public commitment to avoid Uzbek cotton. The fact that cotton at its various stages of production and processing is traded internationally is important, as there is always paperwork that enables transit through customs. In short, we know that at every stage somebody knows where the cotton is coming from. Companies need to spend some effort, ask the right questions and let their suppliers know what is required, or, in the case of Uzbek cotton, what they want to avoid. They do it for quality reasons, why not for ethical reasons too?”
Read the entire article here: http://www.independentworldreport.com/2009/09/blood-cotton/
The American Federation of Teachers wants Uzbekistan's children and teachers back in the classroom, not in the cotton fields. Support their call here:
If you are in the Washington, D.C. area, please consider showing your support in person in front of Uzbekistan's Embassy at a rally on October 14.