- A new report has revealed “massive and expanding” ties between major automakers and China’s Xinjiang region.
- The Chinese government has been accused of committing human rights abuses in the region.
- Similar charges have been leveled in the past against Apple, Amazon and Nike.
If you bought a car recently, some of its parts may have been made by forced labor in China.
That was the main finding of a six-month investigation by researchers from Britain’s University of Sheffield Hallam. In a new report, researchers say their analysis of publicly available documents revealed “massive and expanding ties” between major automakers and China’s Xinjiang region, where evidence has emerged of human rights abuses. committed by the Chinese government against Uyghur Muslims, including labor, government surveillance, forced sterilization and re-education camps. Some called it “genocide”.
The 78-page report says “all major car brands” – including Ford, GM, Tesla and Toyota – are at “high risk” of sourcing parts from companies linked to these human rights abuses. ‘man.
“No part of the car we researched was untouched by Uyghur forced labor,” the team’s lead researcher, Laura Murphy, told The New York Times. “It’s an industry-wide problem.”
A year ago, the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Law was enacted, prohibiting US imports of products made wholly or partially in the Xinjiang region, unless the company can prove that it has no use of forced labour. Since it took effect in June, customs officials said they had stopped 2,200 shipments – valued at more than $728 million – from entering the United States.
Automakers contacted by the Times “did not contradict the report”, but said they were committed to ensuring their supply chains were free from human rights abuses. Insider reached out to Ford, GM, Tesla and Toyota for comment.
In a statement, GM said, “We actively monitor our global supply chain and perform thorough due diligence, particularly when we identify or are made aware of potential violations of law, our agreements or our policies,” adding that its supplier code clearly prohibits any forced labor or abusive treatment of workers.
Ford, Tesla and Toyota did not respond at press time.
“It is not impossible to audit your supply chain to identify risks”
Automotive industry supply chains are “more akin to a ball of spaghetti than a linear chain,” Simon Croom, professor of supply chain management at the University of San Francisco, told Insider. Diego. The average automaker may have ties to up to 18,000 suppliers, including their direct suppliers, suppliers to those suppliers, and so on.
The Sheffield Hallam report lists around 200 companies in China and around the world with potential ties to Xinjiang, where steel, copper, aluminum, batteries and other components are produced.
Croom, who previously worked for Jaguar and wrote his doctoral thesis on automotive supply chains, says he thinks many supply chains – both in the automotive industry and elsewhere – have links to forced labor in the region.
“I have no doubt that many supply chains are driving forced and slave/sweat labor into their upstream levels,” he said, “and it’s very clear that the automotive industry is an example.
According to Croom, while many companies claim they don’t have a complete view of their supply chains, “it’s not impossible to audit your supply chain to identify risks.”
“There’s no reason automakers or other OEMs can’t audit their supply lines,” he said, “and I firmly believe that lack of transparency is a thing of the past. and that OEMs are deliberately ignoring these abusive suppliers.”
Susan Golicic, however, a supply chain professor at Colorado State University who previously worked at Chrysler, says that while she can’t speak specifically to the report’s claims, it can be difficult for companies to maintain a full understanding of their extensive supply chains.
“When suppliers are beyond the third tier, it’s often difficult for OEMs to track what they’re doing, and even who and where they are,” she told Insider. “Some suppliers may be very small and lack the technology to easily communicate or provide transparency up the supply chain.”
In response to supply chain challenges during the pandemic, many companies have taken action to “onshore”, “friendshore” or “nearshore” – parts of their supply chains, bringing them back to the United States, to countries that are political allies or to countries that are geographically closer.
But while these changes could offer companies greater transparency in their supply chains, many are likely to retain global exposure for decades to come.