Bama Athreya, Executive Director, ILRF
Just in time for Thanksgiving, the outdoor clothing brand LL Bean has made a significant commitment to work with ILRF to end forced child labor in cotton. Last week, we released our Sweatshop Hall of Shame, and to our surprise, were compelled to name LL Bean as one of the companies that had been non-responsive to our efforts over the past year to help us end the terrible abuse of children in cotton production in Central Asia.
This is a company that, in the past, had always been quick to respond when we identified sweatshop abuses in their supplier factories in Asia, and had worked with us to correct some of those abuses. So our surprise turned to relief when, within 24 hours of being identified in the "Sweatshop Hall of Shame," a senior official in the company, in charge of the company's labor rights monitoring program, called to ask what the company could do to work with ILRF and ensure that they were not profiting from forced child labor.
Here is the company's public statement, issued today: "Since this issue was brought to our attention by the International Labor Rights Forum, we have begun contacting suppliers to convey to them that we do not intend to use Uzbekistan cotton. We have also agreed to join a coalition of organizations working with ILRF to develop next steps toward the elimination of Uzbekistan cotton in the supply chain. This is a complex issue that we believe is best addressed on a collaborative basis. We are pleased to work with ILRF, and others, to find solutions. "
To be sure, the cotton supply chain is complex and we don't anticipate that the company will be able to clean up its supply chain overnight. But given this new commitment, the company is moving in the right direction. We look forward to working with the staff of LL Bean and hope to be able to report good news on this company to our supporters soon.