WAKEFIELD – The latest report from Cotton Campaign insists the time has come for the fashion industry to act conclusively on forced labour in Turkmen cotton fields, with human rights lawyer and researcher Allison Gill telling Ecotextile Talks that legal obligations must now be met.
Speaking on behalf Cotton Campaign, an interdisciplinary coalition of human and labour rights organisations focused on cotton supply chains, Gill sits down with podcast host David Styles to discuss the past, present and potential future of Turkmenistan’s use of forced labour and the nation’s relationship with the global apparel industry.
After a decade of what she regards as negligible progress in Turkmenistan, the human rights expert is realistic about the monumental challenge facing those who wish to engender real change but admits she hopes kernels of optimism may soon be evident – if the fashion industry collectively acts.
Publicly shunning Turkmen cotton and funding comprehensive supply chain due diligence wherever possible, the human rights expert asserts, is the minimum required to start the ball rolling on meaningful progress.
“Companies and businesses should absolutely not be using Turkmen cotton goods… They have a legal obligation not to do so,” Gill argues, before contextualising the reality in Turkmenistan comparative to other nearby controversial cotton-producing hotspots such as Uzbekistan and China’s Xinjiang region.
Despite the latest report describing children as young as eight being compulsorily engaged in physically gruelling work, Gill admits that a key discussion among the Cotton Campaign partner organisations was how to ensure the publication was able to “convey the information so that it grabs people's attention”.
She also labels the newest findings “ground-breaking”, given that much of the information was sourced by monitors working undercover in the secretive Eurasian nation – risking their freedom or even lives to do so.
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