Zara Canada Faces Investigation Amid Claims of Uyghur Forced Labor in China

Editorial TeamEditorial Team
November 9th, 2023
12:53 PM

Zara Canada finds itself under scrutiny as investigations unfold regarding troubling allegations of Uyghur forced labor within its Chinese supply chain.

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The CORE, or the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise, made a significant announcement today regarding the initiation of an independent fact-finding investigation into disturbing allegations of Uyghur forced labor within the supply chain of Zara Canada Inc. This decision by the Ombud comes on the heels of a comprehensive Initial Assessment report, which was released today and is linked to a complaint filed in June 2022 by a coalition comprising 28 civil society organizations.


Unraveling the Complexities of Uyghur Forced Labor Allegations

The Initial Assessment report regarding Zara outlines a troubling accusation that the company maintains supply relationships with Chinese entities identified as either utilizing or benefiting from the use of Uyghur forced labor. Zara staunchly denies these allegations, asserting that the complaint is inadmissible on the grounds that the alleged human rights abuses do not directly stem from its operations. The company contends that it has no commercial ties with any factory in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

In response to these serious allegations and to determine the veracity of claims regarding Zara's involvement, the Ombud has opted to launch an investigation employing independent fact-finding methods. Despite Zara's reluctance to engage in mediation, citing the inadmissibility of the complaint, the Ombud emphasizes the flexibility of their process. Mediation, though not currently viable, remains an option, subject to the discretion of the Ombud and mutual agreement between the involved parties.


CORE's Unwavering Pursuit of Responsible Enterprise

Ms. Meyerhoffer, the Ombud's spokesperson, highlighted the flexibility of their process, indicating that mediation is currently not feasible but may be considered with the agreement of both parties. Regardless of the chosen approach, all involved parties are urged to act in good faith and actively participate throughout the entire complaint process.

This report marks the ninth Initial Assessment report released by the CORE and the eighth investigation launched in response to allegations of Uyghur forced labor within the supply chains and operations of Canadian companies, as filed by the coalition of 28 civil society organizations. Additional Initial Assessment reports are anticipated in the coming weeks, underscoring the ongoing commitment of the CORE to address and investigate such serious allegations within the realm of responsible enterprise.


Zara Owner Vows to Improve Working Conditions in Supply Chain

Inditex, the parent company of Zara, has recently entered into a comprehensive framework agreement with the International Apparel Federation (IAF) to advance circularity, traceability, and worker well-being within the clothing and textile industry. The agreement, formally inked at Inditex's headquarters in Arteixo, northern Spain, underscores a commitment to sustainability by focusing on key areas such as circularity and the pursuit of net-zero emissions.

This collaborative effort, co-signed by the IAF, a representative body for over 100,000 manufacturers spanning more than 40 countries, extends its reach to address and enhance working conditions in countries hosting manufacturing hubs. Inditex, boasting a portfolio that includes Zara, Pull&Bear, Massimo Dutti, and Bershka, is setting ambitious targets, aspiring to reduce emissions by over 50% by 2030 and achieve net-zero emissions by 2040. This forward-looking agreement aligns with the company's broader mission to foster positive environmental and social impacts within the global fashion industry.