New WRC Report: Hetian Taida/Badger Sport (China)

WRC-Header
To:WRC Affiliate Universities and Colleges
From:Scott Nova and Penelope Kyritsis
Date:June 24, 2019
Re:New WRC Report: Hetian Taida/Badger Sport (China)

Please find here the WRC’s investigative report concerning Hetian Taida Apparel, a Chinese supplier to Badger Sport. In December 2018, Hetian Taida was identified by the Associated Press (AP) as operating within an internment and forced labor camp in China’s Xinjiang province. The WRC confirmed certain aspects of AP’s reporting in a memorandum sent to universities shortly thereafter. This new report is the product of a deeper assessment, drawing on a broad range of evidentiary sources. Badger cooperated partially, but not fully, with the WRC’s inquiry.

Mass Detention and Forced Labor in China’s Xinjiang Province

The context for the actions of Hetian Taida and Badger Sport is the appalling human rights disaster unfolding in Xinjiang province, home to most members of the Uyghur ethnic group. The Chinese government is carrying out a massive and brutal repression of the Uyghur population, including the detention of more than one million people in internment camps. In these detention centers, which the U.S. government has called “concentration camps,” Uyghurs are denied the right to worship and speak their native language and are subjected to physical and psychological abuse, political indoctrination, and forced labor. Hetian Taida is located in the city of Hotan, the site of several internment camps.

The WRC’s Findings: Forced Labor in the Production of Badger’s Collegiate Goods and the Company’s Due Diligence Failures

Based on our investigation, the WRC concluded that:

  • Forced labor was used by Hetian Taida in the production of university logo goods for Badger Sport, a gross violation of university labor standards;
  • Badger failed to perform any labor rights due diligence before placing orders at Hetian Taida, despite its location at the epicenter of one of the world’s worst human rights crises. This failure led to the introduction of forced labor goods into the university supply chain; and
  • Although university logo goods were produced by Badger at Hetian Taida, Badger failed to disclose this to its licensor universities, an additional violation of Badger’s licensing obligations.

The WRC report also reveals that:

  • There has been close collaboration between Hetian Taida and the Chinese authorities responsible for the campaign of mass detention and forced labor in Xinjiang province;
  • In the “investigation” it conducted after the AP story broke, Badger did not interview workers until after it announced its findings; and
  • Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production (WRAP), which granted labor rights certification to a second Hetian Taida facility, did so despite taking no special precautions to enable the workers there – some of them former camp inmates – to testify without fear of reprisals.

Badger’s Response and Remedial Commitments

Badger – which also owns the licensee Teamwork Athletic – maintains that there is no proof that Hetian Taida used forced labor. The WRC gave extensive consideration to Badger’s position and to the claims and arguments from Hetian Taida on which it is based. They did not stand up to scrutiny. The evidence that forced labor occurred, which includes satellite imagery of the internment camp where Hetian Taida produced Badger goods, is clear and convincing.

Notwithstanding Badger’s insistence that there is no definitive proof of forced labor, the company has agreed to take remedial actions identified by the WRC as necessary to address the violations of university labor standards enumerated in the report. Badger has agreed to:

  • Contribute $300,000 to human rights organizations working to aid the victims of the Chinese government’s abuses in Xinjiang province (the organizations will be identified by Human Rights Watch);
  • Stop sourcing university logo goods from Hetian Taida’s parent company and all of its factories; and
  • Correct its faulty factory disclosure data.

Badger had already announced early this year, after the AP story broke, that it would no longer source from Hetian Taida or from Xinjiang province.

The Limits to Effective Remediation

It is important to understand that full remediation, from a worker rights perspective, is not achievable in this case. The most important remedy is to aid and support the affected workers, but there is no feasible way to do this. Any attempt to aid them runs the risk of subjecting them to retaliation by the Chinese authorities. The best available substitute is for Badger to contribute to organizations working broadly to aid victims of the repression in Xinjiang.

Under university codes, the most a licensee can be asked to do is undertake those remedies that are feasible. Badger has agreed to do so. Assuming the company honors these commitments, it will have taken the steps recommended by the WRC to address its violations of university labor standards.

Several universities have asked the WRC if we recommend continuing to license Badger. The WRC does not, as a matter of policy, make recommendations to universities as to whether they should license a particular brand. We, therefore, make no recommendation concerning Badger Sport. Each university that licenses Badger, or considers doing so, will determine – based on its own assessment of Badger’s actions, as discussed in this report, and its suitability as a business partner – whether to license the brand and its associated companies in the future.

As always, please contact us with any thoughts or questions about this report.