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Avoiding clothing associated with the exploitation of humans? You might want to give AllSaints, Urban Outfitters, and Forever 21 a wide berth. The high-street favorites rated at the bottom of survey conducted by the Responsible Sourcing Network to determine how much progress the apparel and home industries have made toward eliminating forced labor from their supply chains, particularly when sourcing from Uzbekistan. Published last Thursday, Cotton Sourcing Snapshot: A Survey of Corporate Practices to End Forced Labor ranked 49 leading companies by assigning them a maximum of 100 points across 11 indicators in the categories of policy, public disclosure, engagement, and implementation and auditing.
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Until recent years, upwards of 2 million children—some as young as 7—were forcibly sent by the Uzbek government to pick cotton for 10 hours a day, for two to three months each year. Boycotts and campaigns organized by groups such as the Responsible Sourcing Network have almost entirely eliminated the number of under-15 children in the fields. To replace the labor shortfall, the government began turning to older children and adults.
In its 2013 Traﬃcking in Persons Report, the U.S. State Department moved Uzbekistan to a Tier 3 ranking, which is the lowest category a country can receive for tolerating human traﬃcking and forced labor.