You probably heard that H&M, Nike, Adidas, Gap, and many other brands issued a statement boycotting the Xinjiang cotton incident. If not, let me walk you through it: H&M released a statement on due diligence on its official website, in which the brand claimed to “boycott cotton and spinning factories in Xinjiang” under the pretext of rumors of so-called “forced labor”.
Compared with H&M, Nike’s so-called statement is simply more aggressive. The brand not only banned Xinjiang cotton itself and asked its upstream suppliers not to use Xinjiang cotton, but even asked its partner factories to stop hiring employees from Xinjiang. In this statement, Nike made an assurance – “We are working to confirm that all sites, including the supply chain, do not employ Uyghur and other minority employees from Xinjiang.” It’s definitely considered ethnic discrimination to explicitly prohibit workers of a certain ethnicity from working in Nike-related companies. Similar to Nike, there is also Adidas. In the “Human Rights” section of the Adidas website, two full sections are devoted to Xinjiang, China. Like other brands that have banned cotton from Xinjiang, Adidas first spread rumors about the existence of forced labor in Xinjiang and stated that it had stopped buying cotton from Xinjiang in 2019.
Of course, the BCI (Better Cotton Initiative) behind brands such as H&M, Nike, and Adidas has been brought to light. This self-proclaimed world’s largest cotton sustainability non-profit organization requires members to use cotton that they believe meets their standards in order to use the BCI logo. The reason for the BCI’s ban on Xinjiang cotton is that they believe there is “forced labor” in Xinjiang, and the cotton produced is therefore not in line with the principles they promote.
As you can see, whether it is H&M, Nike, or BCI and its more brands, they announced a boycott of cotton in Xinjiang for one reason – the existence of “forced labor” in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. But is it true? The vast majority of areas in Xinjiang have achieved mechanized picking as early as 2018 if you don’t know what it looks like? Here’s a picture.
The era of picking cotton manually is long gone. Western media, you can’t criticize China for being economical/technical developed and spread the rumor about not using machines at the same time, you got to be consistent. Unless you are accusing China of forcing a “machine” overworking.
What about the brands that slander the existence of “forced labor” in Xinjiang? It turns out that they are the real sweatshops that oppress countless workers. In 2018, the same year that mechanized cotton picking was achieved in the vast majority of Xinjiang, the Global Labor Justice organization exposed huge exploitation at H&M and the Gap. In their factories, countless low-cost female workers were routinely beaten and even sexually harassed! Women workers from poor countries in Southeast Asia worked day and night for these FMCG brands in order to earn a salary to support their families.
If only the intense work would pay enough, but in an H&M supply factory in Sri Lanka, the female workers not only do not get paid what they deserve but also suffer a lot of inhumane abuse! For them, sexual harassment and physical abuse at work are commonplace. One female worker reveals the details: “While working in the factory, the machine operators would blatantly touch female workers’ bodies and even grab their private parts, without any shame. If we resist or refuse, then they will definitely retaliate by distributing the machines that are already broken and will not come to repair them afterward. Then, your monthly target will definitely not be completed, deducting money and being yelled at by the supervisor. Even if you put up with all this, you may still not get paid. I went to ask about my entitled salary and ended up being beaten by the head of the factory, grabbing my hair and abusing me while doing so.” Here, female workers are owed wages, beaten, and abused as if they were slaves.
This is not the only garment factory that treats its female workers with inhumane treatment. Her supervisor severely beat A female worker working in an H&M supply factory in India for not meeting the production requirements, with fists and feet landing on her face, legs, and chest. Even so, the mistreated female workers were afraid to speak up. Because they need the job to support their families, they fear that if they resist, they will face even worse retaliation. According to Global Labor Justice, in just two factories they investigated, over 500 women workers had similar experiences, and all of them, without fail, chose to keep their mouths shut.
H&M, Gap, and other FMCG brands can maintain profits at such low prices because of their forced labor, harassment of female workers, and “sweatshops”. Besides forced labor and sexual harassment of female workers, H&M also has a poor record in terms of environmental protection. Although H&M’s “used clothes recycling” program has been pulling a lot of consumer goodwill, have you ever wondered, those recycled clothes, where exactly did they go? According to the official statement of H&M, those old clothes were collected for reuse and recycling, reducing the number of textiles that end up in landfills. In reality, however, this is a lie.
In 2018, the Danish TV show Operation X uncovered this shocking truth: H&M incinerates 12 tons of unsold clothing every year, and has destroyed a total of 60 tons in five years! By investigating the destination of H&M’s tailgates, the journalists of this program discovered that the brand new clothes with tags were shipped to a Danish waste disposal company called KARA/NOVEREN. Eventually, the hoarded inventory was burned clean by fire.
As most of the raw materials of H&M clothes are chemical fibers, the process of incineration will release a lot of harmful gases, which will cause a certain degree of damage to the environment. According to the volume of H&M burning clothes, it will undoubtedly intensify the emergence of the greenhouse effect. And the ashes from the burning of those clothes If they are not treated harmlessly, they can also contaminate the soil, causing irreversible damage to the soil and preventing the land from growing any plants for decades. 5 years, 60 tons of clothes, we can not imagine how serious this pollution will cause. A British media outlet has pointed out that it takes 12 years for retailers to fully reuse 1,000 tons of used clothing, while it takes only two days to produce that much waste.
If H&M chooses to incinerate brand new clothes, how can they possibly recycle the used clothes?
It is important to know that the garment and textile industry is now the most polluting industry after the oil industry, and many Southeast Asia villages where fast-fashion brand factories have been established have long suffered from air and water pollution. Set up countless sweatshops to exploit workers, burned hundreds of millions of tons of brand new clothes, and destroyed the environment, but then slandered Xinjiang with rumors of “forced labor?” Of course you can call it all lies, what you choose to believe in, it is your judgement call.