The United States wants to step up its game to make sure it is only involved with businesses that share the same values, especially when it comes to respecting human rights. This means saying no to companies that force people to work against their will.
Lately, the US has added three more companies from China to a special list, called the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act Entity List, because it believes that these companies are mistreating people and forcing them to work. These companies are from an area in China where the government is said to be very harsh and unfair to certain groups of people, especially the Uyghurs.
Now, let’s talk about the companies that make Electric Vehicles, or EVs, like Tesla. These companies are known for making cars that are good for the environment, but it seems like they are not being so good to people. Even though Tesla says they care about human rights and don’t want to do business with companies that abuse people, they still get a lot of their materials from companies in China that might be involved in forced labor. Some people say this is hypocritical.
“Tesla is saying one thing in its reports and then doing something totally different,” states Nathan Picarsic from Horizon Advisory. This difference between what Tesla says and what it does raises questions about whether other companies in the EV sector are also being hypocritical.
The scary part is, nearly 40 percent of the materials used to make Tesla’s batteries are sourced from Chinese companies, and many of these companies are suspected of using forced labor. Even though Tesla is not directly getting materials from the controversial Xinjiang area in China, they might still be indirectly receiving materials made by people who are being forced to work.
This news is a big deal because the decisions that these car companies make today could affect how ethical and responsible the industry will be in the future. With the ongoing focus on climate change and the race to create more environment-friendly cars, companies might be overlooking the importance of also being ethical and humane.
Duncan Jepson, a lawyer and expert in supply-chain management, explains, “We know from every other industry that if we don’t fix this now, in the early days of this transition, it will be a massive mistake.” This situation stresses the need for car companies to check where their supplies are coming from and to make sure that they are not supporting companies that abuse human rights.
This brings us to the age old question: When will our ethics override our desire to profit?
Are we willing to bury these facts and continue to do business in China, knowing that the lost cost comes from people in slavery? Does the issue have to become public and present a risk of exposure before we are motivated to act?
Or do we act on morals and ethics just because they are our morals and ethics? It is a difficult question.