A farmer harvests cotton in Hami, Xinjiang Uighur autonomous region of China. Getty Images.
On Wednesday the British retailer signed a call to action by The Coalition to End Forced Labour in the Uighur Region to stop working with Chinese suppliers benefiting from forced labour, Reuters reported.
The move makes M&S one of the first companies of its size to take action on the issue (American retailer Eileen Fisher was one of the first to take part last year). M&S told Reuters that it does not have relationships with suppliers in or sourcing from Xinjiang, but is hoping to drive change by taking a stand.
Xinjiang accounts for 20 percent of global cotton supply and has come under global scrutiny in recent months following multiple reports of forced labour in its textile factories. While the UN estimates that at least 1 million Uighurs and other minorities have been detained by Chinese authorities in camps across the region, a recent report by the Centre for Global Policy warned that over half a million have been coerced into cotton picking. The Chinese government has long denied the claims.