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WASHINGTON – Fresh from his high-profile appearance at a recent US Congressional-Executive Commission on China hearing, Scott Nova, Executive Director of the Workers Rights Consortium in Washington DC, gave Ecotextile Talks a hard-hitting interview questioning the reliability of social compliance audits in China’s textile sector. 

He explained to host Philip Berman how the WRC first began investigating the use of forced labour in Xinjiang when it emerged that US brand Badger Sports was sourcing university garments from a factory inside an internment camp in the region.

“In the course of our research, we learned that the Uyghur region, where all of these abuses were being carried out, including mass forced labour, was the source of a fifth of the cotton supply for the world’s leading apparel brands and retailers,” he said.

That led the WRC to help form a coalition of about 400 organisations, including trade unions, human rights organisations and faith-based bodies, to demand that global brands and retailers stop sourcing from the region

Speaking about fashion industry stakeholders, he tells Berman: “I'm sure there are some that are actually claiming that they can conclusively demonstrate the absence of forced labour in the region, but no auditor should be working there. It’s incredibly disreputable.”

He also questions whether it’s possible to conduct a methodologically credible audit in China, and alleges that by operating there, sourcing teams are “enhancing the ability of the Chinese government to keep doing what it is doing to the Uyghur people.”

Nova and Berman discussed the impact of the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, in stopping goods made using forced labour coming into the US with Nova emphasising that to our knowledge, nobody has overcome that rebuttable presumption,” that goods coming from that region were not made with forced labour. 

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