In recent times, the issue of forced labor in supply chains has gained significant attention on the global stage. One noteworthy development that highlights the growing concern surrounding this issue is the placement of Chinese company Ninestar on the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFLPA) Enforcement list. This act, which was signed into law to address forced labor concerns in Xinjiang, China, has far-reaching implications for global supply chains and social compliance.
One misleading way that third-party printer cartridge manufacturers like Ninestar market their products is by calling them “compatible”. Compatible ink and toner cartridges are essentially a duplicate, or an illegal clone, of the original OEM brand name cartridges. For most, the manufacturing is identical to the OEMs but are known to produce fewer page yields than the OEMs or sustainable remanufactured printer cartridges, have higher defect rates due to inferior components, and are manufactured using toxic components that are known to be banned carcinogens. These compatible cartridges are also coined “single-use” cartridges, because they cannot be recycled at all due to being made of toxic cancer-causing materials. Over 350 million single-use compatible printer cartridges flood our landfills every single year - that’s equivalent to the weight of 20,000 African Elephants!!!
How Ninestar’s Activities Affect Global Supply Chains
Ninestar's inclusion on the UFLPA Enforcement list impacts global supply chain activities and companies that perform along the chain. In fact, we expect to see more emphasis in three distinct areas:
Strengthening Supply Chain Due Diligence
Ninestar's addition to the UFLPA Enforcement list serves as a wake-up call for companies across industries to reevaluate their supply chain due diligence practices. It underscores the critical importance of identifying and mitigating risks related to forced labor and human rights abuses in supply chains. To comply with the UFLPA and similar regulations, companies need to adopt a proactive approach in tracing the origin of raw materials and components. By ensuring transparency and accountability at every stage of the supply chain, businesses can better assess and address potential vulnerabilities that might expose them to forced labor risks.
Furthermore, companies must engage with their suppliers to promote responsible practices and respect for human rights. Strengthening supply chain due diligence is not only essential for ethical reasons but also for mitigating potential legal and reputational risks that might arise from association with companies implicated in forced labor practices.
One way that consumers and corporate buyers sourcing their printer cartridge supplies is through e-commerce giants like Amazon, eBay, WalMart and Alibaba. These sites unfortunately do not do a great job of making sure the resellers adding products to their catalogs are not adding items that are known to be illegally cloned compatible cartridges that infringe on the OEMs IP.. Most consumers and corporate buyers think that if the item they can source is on these e-commerce sites that these platforms have done their due diligence….but most of the time they haven’t and products that are toxic, or are not sustainably made or can be properly recycled, or infringe on the IP of original OEM brands get posted for sale on a regular basis.
Take Amazon for example: Canon has notified Amazon many times over the years that they have allowed resellers of compatible ink and toner products on their site that were found to be illegal clones of their patented products. “The company says that its efforts at protecting its printer toner intellectual property have resulted in 30,263 total listings removed from Amazon since 2018.” Amazon usually removes those listings off of their website but the same resellers and brands that have been sued by Canon (who holds patents for Canon and HP laser toner cartridges) get right back on Amazon after a period of time. Ninestar sells their compatible inkjet and toner cartridge supplies in 150 countries worldwide, and private label their products under various brands that have made their way onto marketplace websites like Amazon.
The addition to the UFLPA List means that ALL Ninestar products can no longer legally be imported into and sold within the United States. If that is the case, then why as of today’s date (September 13, 2023) are their products still being sold on Amazon on active listings?
Collaboration and Transparency
The UFLPA Enforcement list underscores the significance of, and need for, collaboration and transparency in addressing complex human rights challenges. The inclusion of Ninestar on this list indicates the collective efforts of government agencies, NGOs, and concerned stakeholders to combat forced labor and human rights abuses. To effectively address these issues, businesses need to collaborate with industry peers, relevant authorities, and advocacy groups.
Transparency plays a pivotal role in building trust and fostering responsible supply chains. Companies can enhance transparency by publicly disclosing their supply chain practices and efforts to prevent forced labor. This openness can not only improve accountability but also set industry-wide standards for social compliance.
In the case of third-party printer cartridge manufacturers like Ninestar, the marketing of their compatible products are also misleading consumers by stating their page yields are the same as what they would expect from the more expensive OEM brands. For example, this Ninestar manufactured HP CC364A compatible toner cartridge shows that it has a 10,000 page yield - just like the original HP CC364A toner cartridge. However, it also shows that the cartridge weighs only 3lbs……when the original brand and reputable sustainably produced remanufactured brands weigh closer to 4lbs (3.9lb roughly). This means this cartridge is actually going to produce 25% less pages and the consumer or corporate buyer is going to have to order it more frequently. Just how is that saving them money or being a sustainable product?
Impact on Corporate Reputation and Branding
Ninestar's inclusion on the UFLPA Enforcement list has the potential to significantly impact its corporate reputation and brand image. Such associations with forced labor and human rights abuses can tarnish a company's reputation, leading to a loss of consumer trust and loyalty. Moreover, it may deter potential business partners and investors from collaborating with the company.
Other companies observing this situation should recognize the crucial role corporate reputation and branding play in today's interconnected world. Upholding strong ethical values and responsible business practices not only safeguards a company's reputation but also fosters a positive image among stakeholders.
The placement of Ninestar on the UFLPA Enforcement list serves as a significant turning point in the fight against forced labor in global supply chains. It highlights the urgent need for companies to take an active role in providing due diligence through increased collaboration and transparency to uphold and improve their corporate commitment to social compliance.