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Gov’t to launch survey of large firms on human rights violations in supply chains

  • August 5, 2021
  • , Yomiuri , p. 9
  • JMH Translation

The government is planning to conduct a large-scale survey to look into human rights violations in the supply chains of listed companies. Many Western nations are developing legal frameworks requiring corporations to address this issue, raising the concern that Japan’s lack of initiative in tackling the issue might lead to a loss of international competitiveness.

 

The 2,600 companies listed in the Tokyo Stock Exchange’s First and Second Sections as well as firms chosen by the government will be surveyed.

 

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) will conduct hearings and distribute questionnaires to probe how the companies are addressing human rights violations and what support they would like from the government.

 

The survey results will be compiled in an interim report in September and identify the challenges the companies face. Based on this, the government will discuss whether Japan needs new rules and legislation requiring companies to take countermeasures against human rights violations.

 

Recently human rights issues have become a focus of attention worldwide, and corporations are being called to be aware of the labor environment in which their products are manufactured. The UK, France, Australia, and the State of California have enacted laws one after another that strictly mandate the disclosure of relevant information.

 

In recent years, China has been accused of genocide and engaging in forced labor by ethnic minorities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. In January, the U.S. banned imports from Fast Retailing, which operates Uniqlo, claiming that the company didn’t present sufficient proof that its local suppliers are not involved in forced labor.

 

In response to a UN resolution, the Japanese government formulated the “National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights,” hoping that the companies will start addressing the issue of human rights violations. METI also established the Business and Human Rights Policy Office in July.

 

This is only the first step in the public-private effort to promote information sharing and problem identification concerning human rights issues. At this point, no legal framework or guidance exists in Japan, and it is essentially the responsibility of individual companies to make an appropriate judgment. China is protesting Western nations’ tightening of restrictions. This potentially raises the risk of Japan being caught between the two.

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