Overview of the Investigation
Canada's corporate ethics watchdog, the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise (CORE), has initiated investigations into the Canadian branches of Walmart and Hugo Boss. This action comes in response to allegations surrounding the use of Uyghur forced labor within their supply chains.
Origins of the Accusations
A coalition of 28 civil society organizations lodged complaints in June 2022, prompting CORE to release an initial assessment report. Apart from Walmart and Hugo Boss, the Canadian unit of the fashion giant Diesel, a subsidiary of Italy's OTB, is also under scrutiny. Previously, CORE initiated investigations into Nike Canada, Dynasty Gold, and Ralph Lauren.
Official Statements and Responses
Sheri Meyerhoffer, CORE's Ombudsperson, expressed the need for a thorough investigation as mediation remains off the table. She mentioned, "As mediation between the parties is not currently an option, we will be launching investigations into the allegations outlined in these reports."
In light of the allegations, Walmart Canada stated, "None of the entities in the complaint are in our active disclosed supply chain." They emphasized their strict stance against forced labor within their supply chain. However, both Hugo Boss and Diesel have remained silent, refraining from commenting on the matter.
Background on Uyghur Controversy
Earlier in March, a U.N. committee raised concerns about China's handling of its Muslim minority, pointing out potential cases of forced labor against the Uyghurs, an accusation that China vehemently denies.
Purpose of CORE
Founded in 2019, CORE's primary role is to oversee and investigate potential human rights violations, focusing on Canadian companies in the garment, mining, and oil and gas sectors operating internationally.