New Approaches to Supply Chain Traceability: Implications for Xinjiang and Beyond

This report is part of a series that CSIS’s Human Rights Initiative (HRI) is producing to identify how businesses, governments, multilateral organizations, NGOs, and other actors can work together to address forced labor linked to the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR). Traceability is a necessary first step to understanding supply chains and identifying and addressing labor and environmental conditions in them. However, the textile and apparel sector, like many others, typically has very limited knowledge of its supply chain, particularly in its upstream stages. This report first explores the need for supply chain traceability, current approaches, and the challenges the apparel and textile industry faces with forced labor in the XUAR context. Then it discusses a number of new initiatives and technologies, exploring the roles they might play within an effective traceability scheme. These include isotope, microbiome, and tag tracing as well as blockchain and chokepoint program approaches. Some of these approaches are likely to be more effective in inaccessible environments than others. Finally, the report examines the potential for industry, multi-stakeholder, or legislative efforts to spur the development and adoption of such a system. Notably, the learnings and methodologies from the textile and apparel supply chain can serve as a model for cross-sector applications.

This project was made possible by the support of multiple donors interested in commerce in Asia. CSIS alone is responsible for the analysis presented in the report.

Amy K. Lehr
Senior Associate (Non-resident), Human Rights Initiative