NEW YORK, NY, TUESDAY, JANUARY 23, 2024 – In new investor guidance and a policy briefing launched today by co-authors Anti-Slavery International, the Helena Kennedy Centre for International Justice at Sheffield Hallam University, and the Investor Alliance for Human Rights, investors and governments are being advised to develop more effective and proactive strategies to address systemic forced labor risks in green technologies, due to supply chain reliance on the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (Uyghur Region).
As the need to transition from fossil fuels to green energy becomes increasingly urgent given the escalating climate crisis, investments in the solar power and electric vehicles sectors are surging. However, these sectors are known to be heavily exposed to forced labour risks given the Uyghur Region’s dominance in green technology material supply and production. The new research includes guidance for investors to mitigate these risks, as well as a policy brief to the UK Government to address the concerns through legislative and regulatory action. This project is funded by the Modern Slavery and Human Rights Policy and Evidence Centre (Modern Slavery PEC), which in turn is funded and actively supported by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).
For years, the Uyghur Region in northwest China has served as the predominant hub for the quarrying, processing, refining, manufacturing, and/or export of materials and components for solar and EV supply chains. At issue is the Chinese Government’s systematic persecution of Uyghur and other Turkic and Muslim-majority peoples on the basis of their religion and ethnicity. This persecution utilizes multiple systems of state-imposed forced labour, tainting any materials sourced or produced in the Region with salient human rights risks. In 2022, the UN Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Slavery found that this forced labour “may amount to enslavement as a crime against humanity.”
Through one-on-one interviews with investment professionals, researchers sought to understand how investors have responded to Uyghur forced labour risks in their portfolios. Through this research, the authors compiled ‘Investor Guidance’, designed to provide investment professionals with the tools to identify, exclude or engage businesses linked to human rights violations against the Uyghur people from their green energy portfolios. The Guidance also explores how investors can re-channel investments into companies that champion sustainability, innovation, and supply chain resilience and outlines policy measures governments can take to facilitate those investments.