Canada probing Walmart, Hugo Boss over allegations of forced labor

OTTAWA (Reuters) -Canada's corporate ethics watchdog on Thursday announced investigations into the Canadian units of Walmart and Hugo Boss over allegations of Uyghur forced labor in the companies' supply chains and operations.

Both companies denied the allegations.

The Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise (CORE) said it had published an initial assessment report after complaints filed by a coalition of 28 civil society organizations in June 2022.

CORE will also investigate the Canadian unit of fashion firm Diesel, which is owned by Italy's OTB. It has already launched probes into Nike Canada, Dynasty Gold and Ralph Lauren.

"As mediation between the parties is not currently an option, we will be launching investigations into the allegations outlined in these reports," Sheri Meyerhoffer, CORE's Ombudsperson, said in a statement.

Walmart Canada said it did not tolerate forced labor of any kind in its supply chain.

"None of the entities in the complaint are in our active disclosed supply chain," it said in a statement.

Hugo Boss said "the allegations are without any basis". In an email, the company said it no longer received supplies from a Chinese firm that CORE had expressed a concern about.

In March, a U.N. committee said it was concerned about China's treatment of its Muslim minority, including the use of forced labor against Uyghurs. China denies the allegations.

CORE was launched in 2019 to monitor and investigate human rights abuses, mainly by Canadian garment, mining and oil and gas companies operating abroad.

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Devika Syamnath)