Actions Companies can take to Address Forced and Child Labor in Uzbekistan
The following recommendations outline available options for companies to implement to assist in transforming Uzbekistan’s cotton sector.
Regardless of whether or not a company has identified Uzbek cotton in its supply chain, a viable first step is making a public statement renouncing the actions of the Uzbek government with regard to forced and child labor in the cotton sector. This could take the form of a press release, media report and/or announcement on the company’s website.
Making the decision to not use Uzbek cotton is contingent upon identifying its presence in the first place. There are several ways of doing so:
Communicate with suppliers that your company is concerned with sourcing Uzbek cotton and is currently reviewing its policies on the issue (see Sample Company Language)
Ask suppliers to include country of origin information for the materials that go into their sourced products on all Textile Information Sheets (see Marks & Spencer example)
Review previous Bills of Lading and product specification sheets to retroactively identify Country of Origin
Employ tracing mechanisms such as Historic Futures String program
Begin mapping the social and environmental footprint of your cotton procurement practices
Implement an internal tracking system for all products (preferably online and via barcodes)
Those companies that find they are not sourcing Uzbek cotton should publicly denounce the practice, and introduce a ban until the government has made efforts to correct this ongoing injustice. Those companies that identify Uzbek cotton in their supply chains should take immediate steps to procure cotton from other countries.
Companies should engage shareholders, MSIs (Multi-stakeholder Initiatives), NGOs, trade associations and other stakeholders to coordinate efforts and strategic plans. Further, correspondence with the Government of Uzbekistan, own domestic government, and international organizations such as the ILO, UNICEF and the World Bank will raise the profile of the issue and help exert more pressure upon the Uzbek government.
Further, companies that have taken the aforementioned steps could encourage additional companies to address this issue as they deem appropriate. Through industry associations, MSI gatherings or trade shows, this issue is an industry-wide concern that must be addressed in an inclusive manner. Sharing best practices and