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October 15, 2013
Coalition of Brands and Retailers Refuse to Source Uzbek Cotton
    by Robert Kropp

The Responsible Sourcing Network announces that recent signatories to the Company Pledge Against Forced Child and Adult Labor in Uzbek Cotton bring to 136 the number of companies refusing to knowingly source cotton harvested by child labor.


Although the government of Uzbekistan signed two International Labor Organization (ILO) conventions in spring 2008, and subsequently claimed to have put an end to the practice of forced child labor during its cotton harvest, children continue to be conscripted to forced labor there. Following the nation's the 2009 cotton harvest, the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) determined that as many as two million Uzbek children were forced to labor during the 2009 cotton harvest.

According to the Responsible Sourcing Network (RSN), a project of As You Sow dedicated to ending human rights abuses and forced labor in corporate supply chains, “the youngest children (aged 7 - 11) were not mobilized in mass quantities during the 2012 harvest,” in part due to the efforts of the organization's Cotton Coalition.

“However,” RSN continued, “greater numbers of older students and adults were mobilized.”

This year's harvest marks the first time in many years that the government of Uzbekistan has allowed ILO representatives to conduct inspections. “There is skepticism that the mission will produce accurate results,” RSN reports. “ILO representatives will be accompanied by Uzbek officials, making it difficult for citizens to speak openly with ILO monitors.” Already this year, the deaths of four children in the cotton fields have been documented.

Since 2011, RSN has organized a coalition of brands and retailers that have refused to source Uzbek cotton until the nation's child labor practices end. Signatories to the Company Pledge Against Forced Child and Adult Labor in Uzbek Cotton commit to not knowingly source Uzbek cotton for the manufacture of any of their products until the elimination of the practice is verified by the ILO.

RSN announced this week that 136 brands and companies with a combined market capitalization of more than $1 trillion have signed the Company Pledge thus far. “Signing this common pledge demonstrates solidarity by the industry to block cotton using any form of slave labor from entering the global market,” said Patricia Jurewicz, Director at RSN.

“The Uzbek government must meet its commitments to international labor standards in order to participate in global markets,” RSN stated.

 

 
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