A new investigative report has linked a Spotify carbon credits purchase to forced labor camps in Xinjiang, China.
Spotify’s possible connection to alleged forced labor, referring specifically to labor performed by Uyghur Muslims in the mentioned city, emerged in an in-depth piece from the Guardian today. The Chinese government’s genocide of Uyghurs – including but not limited to arbitrary detainment sentences, “reeducation” programs, and the aforesaid forced labor – has long made headlines.
Meanwhile, a Zurich-headquartered company called South Pole sells carbon credits that purportedly afford “businesses a way to support transparent and high-impact climate action worldwide” by offsetting their emissions via various environmental initiatives, according to its website.
Last month, South Pole was the subject of a far-from-flattering New Yorker investigative report entitled “The Great Cash-for-Carbon Hustle,” which maintained, among other things, that “the market’s largest firm sold millions of credits for carbon reductions that weren’t real.” On the heels of the detailed piece, South Pole’s CEO stepped down this past Friday.
Bearing in mind these pertinent background details, the Guardian pointed to a “Bachu carbon project” that reportedly centered “on a biomass power plant in Xinjiang, China.”
And according to the same multifaceted account as well as research from the Netherlands’ Follow the Money, South Pole’s alleged deception may have also extended to the Bachu power plant. In particular, South Pole had originally indicated that the program would create income streams for “‘local farmers who collect cotton stalks and burn them to generate carbon neutral power.’”
But the Guardian and Follow the Money identified “potentially coercive labour transfers,” reportedly involving “hundreds of people” near the project. South Pole itself is said to have ceased selling the credits (after first making them available to clients in 2014) following “due diligence concerns” raised in 2021.
Before then, though, Spotify was reportedly among the entities (besides the World Wildlife Fund, BP, Hilton, and others) that purchased some of the inherently questionable Bachu project credits. The music streaming giant reportedly withdrew support in 2020.
Academic Adrian Zenz, widely considered one of the foremost experts on the Chinese government’s abuse of Uyghurs in Xinjiang, pinpointed evidence of two over decade-old forced labor farms directly within the Bachu project’s vicinity.
“Really, the biggest question is: How could the world’s largest carbon consultancy, focusing on *ethical* business, think that you could do anything ethical in the core region of an ongoing genocide?” Zenz spelled out on Twitter/X today. “There is something fundamentally wrong with the global corporate system.”
At the time of this writing, Spotify didn’t appear to have commented publicly on its reported participation in a carbon credits scheme that relied upon forced labor. However, South Pole claimed it’d “‘never owned or managed this project on the ground,'” with the point having purportedly inhibited its “‘ability to gather real-time and granular information.'”