Prison Labour Allegedly Used in HM Supply Chain

by: Well Made Clothes Staff | 9 months ago | News

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Fast fashion giants H&M and C&A (as well as technology business 3M) are currently investigating claims that inmates at a Chinese prison made packaging used by the companies. The allegations were made in an article published by the Financial Times by Peter Humphrey, a British corporate investigator and former journalist, who spent 23 months in jail in China. Describing the work he was required to do while serving his sentence, he recalled:

"Mornings, afternoons and often during the after-lunch nap, prisoners “laboured” in the common room. Our men made packaging parts. I recognised well-known brands — 3M, C&A, H&M. So much for corporate social responsibility, though the companies may well have been unaware that prison labour was part of their supply chain. Prisoners from Chinese cell blocks worked in our factory making textiles and components...It was piece work; a hundred of this, a thousand of that. Full-time, they earned about Yn120 (£13.50) a month."

Humphrey also reported making textiles for various companies but did not reveal the names of the brands.

While prison labour in itself doesn’t violate the conventions of the International Labour Organization (ILO), most international brands do not allow prison labour in their supply chains as it can often be inseparable from forced labour. As reported  by QZ, that is why the Ethical Trading Initiative states that companies would be “foolish” to believe that it's possible prison labour could ever comply with ILO standards.

H&M's own company policy specifically excludes any such labour, requiring its supplier factories to sign a contract that outlines “forced labour, bonded, prison or illegal labour is not accepted.” An H&M spokesperson has said that H&M is looking into the claims, but has also said that “To our knowledge, there have been no violations. But needless to say, we take the information published by the Financial Times very seriously.” 

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