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The United States Senate Committee on Finance has officially requested that the Lear Corporation, which manufactures car seats, investigates allegations that some of its suppliers are linked to deforestation and forced labour in Brazil. The Committee chair wrote to the company, asking it to provide evidence on how it conducts due diligence in its supply chain, warning that it could face a ban on its products if forced labour allegations are proven.

  • On 24 July 2023, Ron Wyden, chair of the US Senate Finance Committee, sent a letter to car seat manufacturer Lear Corporation, requesting that it proves its supply chain in Brazil is not linked to forced labour or deforestation. The Committee deals with taxation and trade, and it has been investigating how cattle supply chains contribute to deforestation.
  • Lear’s sourcing is heavily dependent on Brazil, where 70% of its leather (used to manufacture car seats) reportedly comes from. The letter asks that Lear indicates by 7 August 2023 how (or if) it:
    • conducts its own due diligence compliance, including supply chain mapping and analysis of cattle production, to confirm that no forced labour link exists;
    • conducts analysis to determine its suppliers are not involved in “cattle laundering” (whereby cattle are moved from illegal to legal ranches);
    • requires suppliers to conduct due diligence to identify forced labour in their own supply chain;
    • terminates or limits commercial relationships with suppliers linked to forced labour;
    • terminates commercial relationships with suppliers linked to failure to comply with due diligence, including conduct supply chain mapping; and
    • deals with shipments being seized by the US Custom and Border Protection.
  • The letter from Wyden also highlighted the prevalence of forced labour to clear forests in protected areas for cattle. Under Section 307 of the Tariff Act of 1930, US Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) must ban any goods produced in whole or in part using forced labour from entering the US. If these allegations are proven, Lear’s products could be banned under US law.
  • The investigation by the Committee is part of an increasing focus within the US on illegal deforestation. The US Department of Justice created a new inter-agency working group in April 2023 to identify, investigate and prosecute illegal trafficking in timber. Proposed legislation to address illegal deforestation in the form of the Fostering Overseas Rule of law and Environmentally Sound Trade (FOREST) Act was introduced to the Senate in October 2021.

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