There is a rising trend in corporate America to make businesses more “socially conscious” — at least in the minds of Western consumers.
Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) criteria are “a set of standards for a company’s operations that socially conscious investors use to screen potential investments,” according to Investopedia. For instance, a company may emphasize its use of green energy, association with LGBTQ suppliers, or otherwise arrange its operations such that producing shareholder value is inseparable from a leftist agenda.
Elon Musk warned just a few weeks ago that “ESG rules have been twisted into insanity.” This year’s ranking of the “World’s Most Ethical Companies” by Ethisphere — the “global leader in defining and advancing the standards of ethical business practices that fuel corporate character” — helps to explain why.
With its “deep expertise in measuring and defining core ethics standards,” Ethisphere identified 136 organizations that deserve our praise for their outstanding moral fiber. Many of these corporations poured money into “racial equity” initiatives following the death of George Floyd. Nevertheless, many also have ties to forced labor in Xinjiang, China — a world away from the eyes of woke Western consumers.
‘A State-Sponsored Labour Transfer Scheme’
As pointed out by a February 2020 report from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), the Chinese Communist Party has facilitated “a state-sponsored labour transfer scheme” of “Uyghur and other ethnic minority citizens from the far west region of Xinjiang to factories across the country.” Living in segregated dormitories and forced to undergo ideological training outside of work hours, these Uyghurs — many of whom are Muslims — are forbidden from practicing their religion or otherwise expressing dissent with their government.
Many former inmates of Uyghur detention camps have experienced torture and sexual abuse as part of their “re-education” process. One female survivor recalled getting removed from the streets by law enforcement, enduring gang rape, and being forced to take sterilization pills. By several estimates, the Uyghur genocide is the largest mass imprisonment of a minority group since World War II.
Yet none of this seems to bother some of the Western world’s most valuable — and most woke — companies. Indeed, ASPI’s report identified 82 brands in the clothing, technology, and automotive sectors that benefit from Uyghurs’ forced labor.
Apple — a one-time honoree on the “World’s Most Ethical Companies” list — has multiple firms in its supply chain that utilize forced labor.
In 2017, Apple CEO Tim Cook visited supplier O-Film Technology and posted a picture of himself on an O-Film factory floor in Guangzhou, China. In a since-deleted press release, Cook praised O-Film for its “humane approach towards employees,” claiming that the workers seemed “able to gain growth at the company, and live happily.”
However, ASPI points out that five months after Cook’s visit, the Hotan government in Xinjiang contacted O-Film, hoping to supply another 1,300 workers. In December 2017, a Uyghur who claimed to have worked at O-Film said that there were more than a thousand Uyghur workers at the O-Film factory in Jiangxi.
Two years later, a local government document indicated that 560 Xinjiang laborers were transferred to work in factories in the Henan province — including Foxconn’s Zhengzhou facility. The Zhengzhou plant makes half of the world’s iPhones and has even earned Zhengzhou the nickname of “iPhone city.”
Beyond O-Film and Foxconn, Apple incorporated Dongguan Yidong Electronic Co. and Changji Esquel Textile Co. into its supply chain.
Here in the United States, Apple devoted $100 million toward racial equity and justice initiatives “to help dismantle systemic barriers to opportunity and combat injustices faced by communities of color.” Cook proclaimed that “we are all accountable to the urgent work of building a more just, more equitable world” in a manner consistent with “the values of equity and inclusion we have always prized at Apple.”
Sony — a four-time honoree on the “World’s Most Ethical Companies” list — also procures many of its devices from Chinese facilities using Uyghur labor, including O-Film, Highbroad, Dongguan Yidong, and Foxconn.
The Japanese technology conglomerate professes to believe in “building a culture that makes business and employee diversity a priority” with diversity “as one of our core values.” With a $100 million global social justice fund, Sony has expressed concern with “the terrifying rise in hate crimes against the Asian American and Pacific Islander community across the United States.”
Sony CEO Kenichiro Yoshida once noted that “racial injustice is a global issue that affects us all” and insisted that his company is “committed to the human rights of all people.”
Dell Technologies — a ten-time honoree on the “World’s Most Ethical Companies” list — also procured from O-Film, Highbroad, and Foxconn, as well as Sichuan Mianyang Jingweida Technology Co.
In the summer of 2020, CEO Michael Dell told his employees that the death of George Floyd was “all too familiar” for “people of color in communities all over this country and around the world.” He added that “for all the work we do within our own company, there will never be true justice or equality until we root out the rotten underbelly of racism that is eating away at the most cherished values we hold dear.”
General Motors — a three-time honoree on the “World’s Most Ethical Companies” list — is also associated with O-Film and Dongguan Yidong.
The automaker designated $10 million for donations to racial justice organizations in the summer of 2020. According to GM CEO Mary Barra, the funding was meant to help “root out intolerance — and that means racism, bigotry, discrimination and any other form of hatred.”
“We want to be part of meaningful, deliberate change and we will not allow ourselves the passivity of urging others to act,” she vowed. “We are taking action.”
Microsoft — a twelve-time honoree on the “World’s Most Ethical Companies” list — has links to O-Film, Dongguan Yidong, and Foxconn.
The technology company is in the middle of a five-year initiative to strengthen African-American communities in the United States — complete with a $50 million commitment to police and prosecution reform. According to CEO Satya Nadella, “seeing injustice in the world calls us all to take action, as individuals and as a company.”
‘Human Rights Due Diligence’
The hypocrisy of multinational corporations willing to toss a few million dollars toward woke nonprofits in the United States while bankrolling ethnic cleansing abroad is quite apparent. Fortunately, many Americans are now taking notice — and lawmakers are taking action.
President Joe Biden signed the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act into law in December. Sponsored by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), the legislation stipulates that no goods made with slave labor from Uyghur Muslims in the Xinjiang province will make it to the United States. However, the legislation was passed despite a lobbying push from firms like Nike, Coca-Cola, and “World’s Most Ethical Companies” designee Apple.
How should Western companies respond to their tainted supply chains? ASPI recommends that each company should “conduct immediate and thorough human rights due diligence on its factory labour in China, including robust and independent social audits and inspections.” Any factories implicated should then be reformed or abandoned.
And in the meantime, we should avoid lauding these companies for their compassion.
The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.