The Straits Times
Published on Dec 16, 2012

H&M under pressure over forced labour cotton


LONDON (AFP) - Rights activists in Britain launched a campaign on Sunday calling on Swedish retail giant H&M to take concrete action to stop using cotton harvested by forced labour in Uzbekistan.

H&M, the world's second-largest fashion retailer, is one of more than 100 companies that have signed a global pledge in the past year promising to "not knowingly" use Uzbek cotton in their clothes, but campaigners said they want it to do more.

"We want to know what's behind that pledge, what steps have companies taken to actually ensure that Uzbek cotton isn't in their supply chain," said Ms Joanna Ewart-James, programme coordinator at Anti-Slavery International, a British rights group.

"The problem is this practice of forced labour is happening in cotton fields that are many steps removed from the final garment, so it's quite difficult to knowingly know what's going on in your supply chain.