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Japan telecom giant NTT to check suppliers for human rights abuses

Move comes as concern grows over China's treatment of its Uyghur population

The Japanese telecom giant is planning to visit between 40 and 50 major suppliers a year. (Photo by Yusuke Imamura)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Nippon Telegraph and Telephone will launch an inspection into its major suppliers for human rights violations from fiscal 2022 to root out unethical practices from its supply chains, company sources said Tuesday.

The Japanese telecom giant is planning to visit between 40 and 50 major suppliers a year in Japan and abroad to check whether they are engaged in such practices, including forced and child labor, the sources said.

The parent of group companies like NTT Docomo and NTT Data will consider tough consequences, such as terminating business deals, depending on the outcome of the inspections, which are expected to begin in the business year from April next year, they said.

NTT officials plan to visit the suppliers' headquarters and factories to check whether employees are working of their own free will and are not being discriminated against or abused.

They will also look into whether the group's some 130 major suppliers provide safe and hygienic working environments for their employees.

NTT's plan comes at a time when the United States and Europe are moving toward requiring that their companies conduct due diligence amid rising concerns over the use of forced labor of Uyghur ethnic minorities in China's far-western Xinjiang region.

The United States and European countries have imposed sanctions on China over the Xinjiang issue, while Tokyo has been more cautious in its response.

"In the short term, (the plan) could lead to rising costs, but we would like to strengthen our response and lead the world by taking into consideration our brand and trust," one of the company sources said.

While NTT conducts business with about 40,000 companies, it makes 90 percent of its purchases from roughly 130 major suppliers, including Fujitsu, NEC, as well as U.S.-based Microsoft and Apple.

NTT aims to inspect different companies each year to finish looking into all of them in a few years, the sources said.

If officials find a problem during the inspection, NTT will urge the suppliers to address the issue but will consider terminating business if the problem is not properly handled.

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