Professionals engaged in supply chain jobs in leading manufacturing and retail firms, from permanent staff to supply chain and procurement interims, are poised to work at eliminating an epidemic originating from China.

The scourge in question, however, isn’t COVID-19 but the continued use of slave labour in the supply chain.

As reported in Supply Chain Management Review, well over a century-and-a-half after Britain and the US abolished the transatlantic slave trade, there are currently more slaves in the world than at any other time.

This week, leading firms from the manufacturing and retail industries have collaborated to declare their trenchant opposition to continued abuse of this kind in supply chains.

A statement issued by a coalition of organisations representing these industries read: “We work together to identify and eliminate forced labour, and conditions that can lead to forced labour, in the countries from which we source products.”

The continued use of such labour, the coalition said, was “intolerable”.

The group is now working on engaging countries across the globe to combat this evil and to deepen commitments to human rights.

The coalition had become profoundly concerned by reports that came into its possession detailing the ongoing use of forced labour and the mistreatment of Uyghurs and other ethnic minority workers located in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) as well as other parts of China.

The group’s statement went on: “The reported situation is of a scale, scope, and complexity that is unprecedented during the modern era of global supply chains.”

The group is far from alone in its concerns.

The US government has, along with non-government experts, publicly noted the existence of wholly unacceptable working conditions in Xinjiang, warning that the mistreatment of ethnic minority workers in regions of China presents major challenges to the integrity of the global supply chain.

The retail and manufacturing coalition has now stated that it’s exploring all available options to combat the problem and create supply chains purged of forced labour.

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