Canada watchdog investigates Ralph Lauren over alleged Uyghur forced labour ties

The Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise (CORE) – the country’s corporate ethics watchdog – has announced an investigation into iconic US fashion house Ralph Lauren over alleged use of or benefit from Uyghur forced labour in its supply chain.

A coalition of 28 civil society organisations filed complaints against Ralph Lauren in June 2022, with CORE saying that this led to the publishing of an initial assessment report. This report details allegations that the company had supply relationships with Chinese firms that use or benefit from the use of Uyghur forced labour.

CORE also said it was looking into similar allegations facing Canada-based mining and property investment firm GobiMin. Last month it launched investigations into Nike Canada and Dynasty Gold over allegations that they have or had supply chains or operations in China identified as using or benefitting from the use of Uyghur forced labour.

Forced labour of Uyghur people in China’s Xinjiang still remains a prevalent issue facing supply chains. The US government estimates that the Chinese government has arbitrarily detained more than one million Uyghurs and other mostly Muslim minorities in China's far western Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, and that 100,000 Uyghurs and other ethnic minority ex-detainees in China may be working in conditions of forced labour following detention in re-education camps.

Several large western companies have been accused of either directly using Uyghur forced labour in their product production, or indirectly in their supply chains.

A 2020 report from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) identified 83 foreign and Chinese companies who are alleged to have directly or indirectly benefited from the use of Uyghur workers outside Xinjiang. These included household names such as Amazon, Apple, BMW, H&M, Marks & Spencer, Samsung, Uniqlo and dozens more.

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