TTP Investigation: Apple’s Employee Uniforms Tied to Forced Labor in Xinjiang
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 10, 2020
Contact: Michael Clauw, firstname.lastname@example.org, 202.780.5750
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Campaign for Accountability (CfA), a nonprofit watchdog group that runs the Tech Transparency Project (TTP), released a report revealing that many of the uniforms worn by Apple retail workers are sourced from, Esquel Group, a company that was sanctioned in July 2020 by the U.S. government for its involvement in forced labor and other human rights abuses in China’s Xinjiang province. This finding comes in light of Apple CEO Tim Cook’s recent statement at a July 29th Congressional hearing that “[Apple] wouldn’t tolerate [forced labor],” and would “terminate a relationship [with a supplier] if it were found.”
Campaign for Accountability Executive Director Michelle Kuppersmith said, “If Apple wants to stand by its claim that it has a ‘zero tolerance’ policy toward forced labor in its supply chain, it needs to seriously interrogate and evaluate the claims made by the U.S. Commerce Department about Esquel.”
Esquel, based in Hong Kong, is one of the world’s biggest garment makers and has long sourced much of the cotton it uses from Xinjiang, the region in northwest China where China has imprisoned more than 1 million Muslim minority Uighurs under the guise of an economic development program. Media and government reports have repeatedly tied Esquel’s farms, gins, and mills there to the use of coerced Uighur labor.
Despite these reports, Apple has yet to comment on their relationship with Esquel. Apple does not publicly disclose the scale of their relationship with Esquel, but the former company referred to Apple as a “major customer” on its website. Additionally, Esquel’s CEO and vice chairman John Cheh gave a presentation in September 2018 that highlighted the fact that Esquel produces staff uniforms for Apple. According to online shipping records reviewed by TTP, in June 2020 Esquel shipped 54 cartons of knit shirts to Apple Retail in Valencia CA. CfA submitted a complaint to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection alerting the agency to these recent shipments.
Esquel is not the first Apple supplier recently linked to China’s forced labor program. In February, Nanchang O-Film Tech, which supplies Apple with key components of iPhone camera technologies, was singled out for ties to forced labor by an Australian think tank. According to an Apple spokesman, the company conducted its own investigation into these claims and said that it found no evidence of forced labor in its supply chain.
Ms. Kuppersmith continued, “Apple’s reliance on Chinese manufacturers has long been an integral part of their strategy to keep costs low, but in light of the forced labor crisis in Xinjiang, they must do more to ensure that lower costs don’t come at the expense of human rights abuses.”
Campaign for Accountability is a nonpartisan, nonprofit watchdog organization that uses research, litigation, and aggressive communications to expose misconduct and malfeasance in public life and hold those who act at the expense of the public good accountable for their actions.