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Canadian corporate ethics czar launches China forced-labour probe into Ralph Lauren

Ottawa’s corporate-ethics watchdog has announced an investigation into fashion company Ralph Lauren over the alleged use of forced labour in its supply chains.

Sheri Meyerhoffer, who is the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise, says it’s not clear whether the company is doing enough to weed out components linked to the mistreatment of China’s Uyghur minority.

Her report says that in response to her inquiries, Ralph Lauren insisted it’s an American company that isn’t subject to a Canadian probe before detailing its measures to prevent mistreatment.

Meyerhoffer has also asked Toronto-based mining company GobiMin to improve its policies to prevent the possible use of forced labour in its supply chains.

All four of the initial assessments the ombudsperson has announced so far relate to China’s Xinjiang region, where most of the country’s Uyghur population lives and where Beijing insists it has never allowed the use of forced labour.

Today’s reports mark the third and fourth initial assessments by the ombudsperson, all of which relate to China’s Xinjiang region. 

Meyerhoffer’s office was opened in 2018, and critics say it lacks the tools it needs to be effective, such as being able to compel documents and testimony.

The Canadian Press has reached out to Ralph Lauren and GobiMin for comment. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 15, 2023.

Dylan Robertson, The Canadian Press

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