NRF: Retail Industry Working To Check Forced Labor

The U.S. government is sanctioning Chinese companies it accuses of complicity in human rights violations arising from Beijing’s actions toward Muslim minorities, including forced labor, and the National Retail Federation has joined other trade associations in publishing a statement about their policies and activities in response.

The government of China has carried out mass detentions of Muslim minority residents in Xinjiang province, human rights activists have reported.

On Monday, July 20, the U.S. Commerce Department issued a statement saying that its Bureau of Industry and Security had added 11 Chinese companies to a list of firms implicated in human rights violations and abuses resulting from the implementation of “the People’s Republic of China’s campaign of repression, mass arbitrary detention, forced labor, involuntary collection of biometric data and genetic analyses targeted at Muslim minority groups from the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.”

The NRF statement:

“Our member companies have long maintained policies and compliance programs that seek to prevent, identify, and mitigate instances of forced labor. As an industry representing thousands of brands and retailers, ensuring that forced labor does not exist in our supply chains is a key priority.

Following today’s launch of the NGO Call to Action, the recent publication of several new reports, the signing into law of the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act, and the release of a business advisory by the U.S. State, Treasury, Homeland Security, and Commerce Departments regarding supply chain risk in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, we want to reiterate our continued focus on identifying and eradicating forced labor. A successful solution for all involved, above all the workers themselves, will require state-to-state engagement and collaborative partnerships across government, industry, labor advocacy groups, non-governmental organizations, and other stakeholders. We again urge our nation’s leaders to immediately establish a multi-stakeholder working group to develop and deploy a collective approach that accurately assesses the problem, identifies constructive solutions to increase transparency, and protects both the rights of workers and the integrity of global supply chains.

Following the publication of early reports, in alignment with our zero tolerance for forced labor, our associations and others joined forces as part of a multi-industry program to use our collective efforts to address the situation. Building on work the associations and member brands had already done separately, we have spent the last eight months working together to address due diligence challenges and opportunities.

Since coming together, we have implemented a broad-based effort, convening with a wide variety of stakeholders, including NGOs, labor groups, and policy makers in all branches of government. In these meetings, we have highlighted public reporting on the region, shared our industry’s decades of work on due diligence and remedy, reiterated our zero tolerance approach to forced labor, and called for unified action by relevant stakeholders to find the best way forward.

We are and will continue to be committed to working with all key stakeholders on this critically important human rights issue.”