Japanese apparel-makers increasingly conscious of human rights

Japanese garment companies are redoubling their efforts to give due consideration to human rights when manufacturing clothing and other products, amid allegations of forced labor in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

The use of cotton made in the region has come under criticism, with consumers becoming more sensitive to social issues involving the fashion industry.

Observers said the industry faces the challenge of responsibly addressing human rights issues throughout its complex supply chains from raw materials to finished products.

TSI Holdings Co., whose flagship brands include the “nano universe”, has already stopped using cotton from Xinjiang. Mizuno Corp., a full producer of sporting goods, has decided to switch to using alternative materials.

Sanyo Shokai Ltd., a long-established clothing manufacturer, used cotton from Xinjiang in a small number of products, but decided to stop its use starting with this year’s spring products. “We felt that the risks of human rights violations cannot be eliminated,” said a public relations officer for Sanyo Shokai.

Fast Retailing Co., which owns Uniqlo and other clothing brands, aims to establish a system for the company to investigate the risks of forced labor throughout the manufacturing process, including material sourcing. raw.

Some Japanese clothing companies have decided to adopt the policy of attaching importance to human rights, as they have been met with harsh looks from domestic and international consumers and investors.

At the time of the deadly 2013 collapse of a garment factory building in Bangladesh, poor working conditions in the factory were highlighted as problematic and drew sharp criticism against garment companies. . Garment manufacturers’ tendency to come under public scrutiny has been reinforced by alleged forced labor in Xinjiang, a major cotton-producing region.

However, observers have indicated that it is difficult to comment on the legality of the entire manufacturing process of cotton products, which involves a number of stages, including cotton cultivation, spinning and sewing. .

“There are limits to attempts to completely eliminate” the use of cotton from Xinjiang, said a clothing company official.

Meanwhile, efforts to accommodate human rights have extended to entities with commercial ties to clothing companies.

Textile manufacturer Teijin Ltd. conducts annual surveys of its business partners in Japan and abroad to determine if there are issues such as child labor. The company has clarified its position not to get involved in human rights violations, conducting related audits in cooperation with non-governmental organizations.

Toyoshima & Co., a Nagoya-based textile trader, sells organic cotton made in Turkey, the entire production process of which is managed by the company, from farmland to the spinning mill.

“We can offer the benefits of safe and secure products,” because all the producers involved can be specified in the management system, said an official from Toyoshima.

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