It wasn't too much of a surprise to read that the Dubai Multi Commodities Centre bonds were placed on credit watch negative recently, after being downgraded to junk status in June. Is a business model built on willful, knowing exploitation of forced child labor really sustainable in any sense?
Maybe five years ago, traders could claim ignorance about Uzbekistan's mass child enslavement for the cotton harvest. Not anymore. Multiple actors have approached the Dubai Multi Commodities Centre with the evidence directly, at least from 2008. In July of this year the American Apparel and Footwear Association, in league with the (U.S.) National Retail Federation and two other major trade groups, wrote to the DMCC director, David Rutledge, and requested action. The DMCC, after all, is a critical actor enabling the Uzbek government to profit from it exploitive practices. And what action was taken? A big roll-out of new services at the Tashkent Cotton Fair, and more cotton purchases: the DMCC traded 20,000 tons by October and (Dr. Rutledge has since been replaced by the former head of the Dubai Gold Exchange, Malcolm Wall Morris.)
As the cotton works its way up the production chain, consumers are sending the message to retailers (and many retailers are reacting...and those that are not are being called on it). But the first-line facilitators of this outrage such as the DMCC have an obligation to act, too.