Apple has previously bought clothing for Apple Store uniforms from a subsidiary of a company that the US Government is alleging violated human rights in China’s Xinjiang region.
Following Tim Cook saying to the House of Judiciary that Apple will not tolerate the use of forced labor in its business or any part of its supply chain, documents have shown that the company has previously bought from a subsidiary of Esquel. Changji Esquel Textile is currently facing sanctions for alleged human rights violations, including forced labor.
“Esquel is not a direct supplier to Apple but our suppliers do use cotton from their facilities in Guangzhou and Vietnam,” an Apple spokesperson told The Guardian. “We have confirmed no Apple supplier sources cotton from Xinjiang and there are no plans for future sourcing of cotton from the region.”
The Guardian reports that Apple’s spokesperson declined to say where future cotton supplies would come from. The newspaper also notes that there is no cotton farming in Guangzhou, and that Esquel does not appear to farm cotton in Vietnam.
Apple is no longer listed as a major customer on Esquel’s website, but the two firms have reportedly worked together for many years. It’s believed that the clothing listed in shipping records were uniforms for Apple Store staff.
In 2014, Apple and Esquel together agreed to produce what were being described as more sustainable uniforms, using recycled cotton waste.
Speaking at the antitrust hearing in Washington, Tim Cook called forced labour “abhorrent.” He said that Apple “wouldn’t tolerate it…We would terminate a supplier relationship if it was found.”