China has developed its own ‘sustainable’ cotton certification scheme as part of its response to Western criticism of suspected forced labour in the Xinjiang province. According to Global Times, the move marks a watershed moment in the transformation of the global cotton rule-making system, which is now dominated by the West-led Better Cotton Initiative (BCI). China’s goal is to develop a self-sustaining, independent standard and certification system to offset the West’s supremacy.
The China Cotton Association (CCA) has formally inaugurated a new body, the Cotton China Sustainable Development Programme, according to the Global Times, a daily tabloid published by the Chinese Communist Party’s flagship People’s Daily newspaper. The organization’s goal is to combat the use of forced labour by imprisoned Uyghur Muslims in the region that supplies one-fifth of the world’s cotton. In recent months, China has seen a political and consumer reaction in response to publicly expressed concerns about the exploitation of forced labour by companies and the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI).
The Cotton China Sustainable Development Programme seeks to encourage sustainable cotton production while decreasing reliance on Western standards. According to ‘industry insiders,’ it would give China a considerable say in worldwide pricing and standard-setting. The ultimate goal, they said, was to “challenge the BCI’s guidelines” and promote China’s own sustainable cotton standard, while also enhancing global awareness of China-made textile and clothing.
The BCI has stated that it will collaborate with the textile supply chain and brands to create a sustainable cotton industrial chain spanning production, textile and clothing manufacture, and brand sales. China has been putting pressure on it since it announced its withdrawal from the Xinjiang province last October, citing worries about the use of forced labour by Uyghur Muslims.