In Bordeaux, the extension of a Zara store refused due to forced labor by Uyghurs

Posted on November 30, 2021

Zara, who wanted to expand one of its stores in downtown Bordeaux, has just been refused by a departmental commission. A refusal motivated by the opening of an investigation targeting Inditex, the parent company of Zara, for “concealment of a crime against humanity” after an NGO report accusing him of buying cotton from a persecuting labor camp the Uyghurs. Charges that Inditex refute.

It’s a big blow for Zara. The fast fashion brand had requested permission to double the surface area of ​​its store in the center of Bordeaux, rue Sainte-Catherine. The goal was to go from 1000 to 2000 m2. But the extension of the store was refused on November 9 by the Departmental Commission for Commercial Development, which issued a “unfavorable opinion”.

The three members who issued their veto, an assistant to the ecological mayor of Bordeaux, an elected ecologist from the Metropolis and a councilor from the New Aquitaine Region (PS-PCF-PRG), notably invoked the existence of an investigation judicial process underway on suspicion of the use of forced Uyghur labor in China by subcontractors of Inditex, Zara’s parent company. “It is a political decision that we accept. We wanted to give a strong signal by refusing the expansion of stores which do not sufficiently master their subcontractors”, underlined the elected Alain Garnier, who represented the Metropolis in this commission.

One in five cotton garments are believed to come from a Uyghur labor camp

The judicial investigation mentioned by elected officials was opened last July by the National Anti-Terrorism Prosecutor’s Office in Paris. It targets four textile giants in France including Inditex, Uniqlo France, the sports shoemaker Skechers and the SMCP group which notably owns Sandro and Maje. This investigation follows a complaint filed last April by three NGOs, the Sherpa association, the Ethics on Etiquette collective, the Uyghur Institute of Europe and a Uyghur woman who was interned in Xinjiang province. , in northwest China.

For more than two years now, human rights defenders have accused China of persecuting the Uyghur Muslim minority. More than a million of them are believed to be interned in forced labor camps. A year ago, 180 NGOs published a report in which they estimated that about one in five cotton garments sold worldwide contained cotton or yarn from Xinjiang that was linked to forced labor by Uyghurs. For the complainants, the question is whether the big names in clothing profited from the forced labor of this persecuted community.

Actions in Zara stores

Zara is regularly the target of associations “happening”. On October 2, the NGO SumOfUs organized an action in front of two of its stores in Paris aimed at “informing Zara’s customers of the brand’s complicity in the forced labor of the Uighurs”. Inditex has always disputed the charges. The managing director of Inditex France, Jean-Jacques Salaün, recently defended the fight against forced labor on Novethic as “the DNA of the group”. The group cites in particular a report, released in November, based on customs data, which attempts to identify how cotton from Xinjiang can enter international supply chains. Among the 103 international brands listed by the authors of the survey as participating in the forced labor of Uyghurs, does not appear by the Inditex group.

Zara’s parent company should therefore appeal to the National Commission for Commercial Development. “With the impact of fast-fashion on the environment and the suspicions of forced labor by Uyghurs, the Zara project seemed to us to contravene the criteria of sustainable development “, justifies Sandrine Jacotot, assistant to the businesses at the town hall of Bordeaux.

Marina Fabre Soundron @fabre_marina with AFP

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