Loading content

Uyghur forced labour: respecting rights in renewable energy

Research addressing forced labour of Uyghurs and other Muslim and Turkic-majority peoples in the production of green technology

Published: 23rd January 2024

These are outputs from the research project carried out by a collaboration between Anti-Slavery International, Sheffield Hallam University and Investor Alliance for Human Rights entitled “Respecting Rights in Renewable Energy: Addressing forced labour of Uyghurs and other Muslim and Turkic-majority peoples in the production of green technology.”

The outputs include the research summary, a detailed guidance for investors on Uyghur forced labour in green technology, and a policy brief for the UK government. Another output from this project, the report entitled “Over exposed: Uyghur Region Exposure Assessment for Solar Industry Sourcing”, was published in August 2023 by Sheffield Hallam University.

The Modern Slavery PEC has actively supported the production of this Research Summary. However, the views expressed in this summary and the full report are those of the authors and not necessarily of the Modern Slavery PEC.

Key findings

This research examines approaches to addressing state-imposed forced labour of Uyghurs and other Turkic and Muslim-majority people in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (Uyghur Region), with a focus on solar and electric vehicle battery supply chains. It aims to help investment professionals better understand and address the risk of exposure to forced labour in their green technology holdings.

The research also provides supplementary recommendations for how policy makers can facilitate meaningful action from both the business and investment communities. Key findings include:

  1. The vast majority of solar modules produced globally continue to have exposure to the Uyghur Region; this risk increases significantly when companies operate in China. Despite global attention on the issue of Uyghur forced labour, information regarding solar industry sourcing is becoming less transparent over time.
  2. Investors’ attempts at due diligence and responsible stewardship on the issue of Uyghur forced labour in green technology supply chains are stymied by a variety of interlocking factors, including the restrictive legal and political environment in China leading to opaque supply chains.
  3. Investment professionals had a limited understanding of how the distinctive context of state-imposed forced labour in the Uyghur Region – including the inability to conduct human rights due diligence on the ground and the impossibility of direct remediation – necessitates alternative approaches to risk management.
  4. Outside of China, governments have not introduced sufficient financial incentives and regulatory measures on businesses and investors to mandate or incentivise them to limit their exposure to the Uyghur Region. This has resulted in investors continuing to invest or hold investment in implicated solar and electric vehicle businesses, and not considering divestment options. Investors noted concrete measures from regulatory bodies to address Uyghur forced labour risks, and from ESG data providers to identify such risks within relevant companies and sectors, would help shift the landscape of green technology investment and procurement.
  5. Despite a clear need for industry innovation and supply chain diversification, China’s dominance of green technology supply chains and a perceived lack of emerging alternatives has bred fatalism within both the business and investor ecosystem. The conflict between climate and human rights commitments has led investors to feel they have ‘no choice’ but to invest in companies sourcing or connected to the Region, despite the egregious human rights harm.

Research outputs:

Photo: Peter Chou Kee Liu via Flickr