Xinjiang cotton, a type of fabric notoriously related to forced labor in China, has been found in products made by major German clothing brands.
According to The Guardian, the material was detected in Puma and Adidas T-shirts and shirts sold by Hugo Boss and Jack Wolfskin. A Tom Tailor pullover was also identified.
Researchers at the Agroisolab in Jülich and the Hochschule Niederrhein University of Applied Sciences used isotope analysis in their study. Archaeologists or forensic scientists commonly use the method to determine the geographic origin of organic and non-organic components.
Markus Boner of Agroisolab said, quote “The isotopic fingerprints in the cotton are unambiguous and can be differentiated from cotton sourced from other countries and even other Chinese regions.” end-quote
Puma, Adidas, and Hugo Boss have previously voiced opposition to forced labor and promised to switch away from sources tainted by human rights abuses.
Puma denied it had any direct or indirect connection to any supplier in the Xinjiang region.
It said, quote “Based on all the information we obtained through our investigations, and the traceability controls we put in place in our supply chain, we are confident that we do not source cotton from the Xinjiang region.” end-quote
Adidas also denied they were still maintaining any supply contracts to the area. It said, quote “sources cotton exclusively from other countries and takes various measures to ensure fair and safe working conditions in its supply chain.” end-quote
Jack Wolfskin only said its cotton was verified, whereas Tom Tailor did not comment.
An anonymous auditor of Chinese subcontractors said the Chinese Communist government has made it more challenging for Western companies to clarify their supply chain fully.
The auditor told German public broadcaster NDR’s investigative program STRG_F, quote “It is theoretically possible but highly unlikely that western businesses can say with certainty that there is no forced labor in their cotton supply chains in Xinjiang.” end-quote
Last month, Just Style reported that the Alliance for Vietnam’s Democracy accused Vietnamese intermediaries of quote “laundering” end-quote Xinjiang cotton.
They allegedly imported semi-finished products from Chinese suppliers and, from that, manufactured full-finished garments for export. This, in effect, helped China bypass U.S. sanctions imposed by the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act.
Vietnam is a neighboring country to China, manufacturing items for Hugo Boss, Adidas, and Puma.