The Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production (WRAP), which had certified a Chinese factory that was cited in media reports for using forced labor in apparel production, has cleared the facility of improper methods or actions.
After hearing reports that WRAP-certified factory, Hetian Taida, located in Xinjiang in northwestern China, was using forced labor from a government-run facility—that has been called a reeducation or internment camp—WRAP told Sourcing Journal that it immediately launched an investigation. This included sending one of its senior auditors to do a full on-site audit of the facility.
“Based on the findings of this investigation, we have concluded that this facility is not engaged in the use of forced labor,” the company said.
During the investigation, WRAP said it confirmed that the facility was not located within the premises of the reeducation camp, as was claimed in reports by the Associated Press and other media outlets, “nor even in immediate proximity to it.”
“Instead, it is in a completely separate industrial park, which houses other production facilities, as well, and is easily accessible without any physical barriers or any other kind of excessive security,” WRAP said. “The investigation included interviews with a significant portion of the workforce at the facility, which confirmed they were not drawn from the reeducation camp. The vast majority of the workers reside in a dormitory located in a separate building within the industrial park. This dormitory was also visited and found to house regular living quarters allowing for free movement.”
The media reports had sparked U.S. Customs & Border Protection to review published information that “appears to link the internment camps identified in Western China to the importation of goods produced by forced labor by a U.S. company,” which the AP said was Badger Sport, based in North Carolina.
Following the report, Badger Sport said, “We immediately suspended ordering product from Hetian Taida and its affiliates while an investigation is conducted. One percent or less of our products were sourced from Hetian Taida. We will not ship to customers any product in our possession from that facility.”
Up to 1 million Uighurs, Kazakhs and others from predominantly Muslim groups are arbitrarily detained in such camps where they are said to be subject to political indoctrination and forced labor, according to reports from news organization and NGOs.
On Monday, Badger Sport acknowledged on its web site that WRAP had conducted the new investigation and that it had maintained the facility’s gold certification.
“Regardless of these findings, given the serious nature of these accusations, we are conducting our own investigation,” Badger Sport said. “We retained an independent, third party inspection team to visit the site and examine relevant documents. We expect this work to be completed in the near future.”
WRAP said as with any manufacturing facility, the audit of Hetian Taida revealed the need for improvement in some areas, and that the organization, which focuses on facility-based certification, will continue working with the facility to address these.
“But given the findings of our investigation, we are satisfied this particular facility is not engaged in the use of forced labor,” WRAP added. “While the allegations regarding this particular facility are untrue, we support the need to bring greater attention to this matter and endorse the warnings… to buyers about the need to ensure, through proper due diligence, that their supply chains remain free of forced labor.”