A new initiative is setting its sights on eliminating forced labor from cotton supply chains.
Called the Yarn Ethically & Sustainably Sourced Standard, or YESS, and developed by the Responsible Sourcing Network, the initiative aims to be a guide for spinners to avoid purchasing cotton tainted by forced labor.
“After years of engaging brands on the issue of forced labor in the cotton sector, it was clear to me that a robust industrywide initiative was needed to identify and address the harm of forced labor in the upstream cotton supply chain,” explained Patricia Jurewicz, vice president of RSN.
“Not only has there been huge success with a similar approach for conflict minerals, but companies are now being required by law to address forced labor in their supply chains.”
YESS has specifically identified nine countries that have a high risk for using forced labor in cotton production: Benin, Burkina Faso, China, India, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
Sourcing Journal reports:
The YESS Standard applies the globally recognized Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) “Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains in the Garment and Footwear Sector.”
The OECD guidance provides a practical framework to help companies identify and prevent harms related to human rights, labor, environmental and integrity risks in their operations and supply chains.
The organization said the YESS standard will verify whether spinning mills are improving or avoiding purchasing cotton produced with forced labor. By doing this, YESS will give brands, consumers and regulators assurance that proper action was taken to keep modern slavery out of their cotton products.
So far, 77 supporters—including Adidas, BJ’s Wholesale Club, Hudson’s Bay, Hugo Boss and Tesco—have signed a YESS statement expressing their commitment toward ethical and sustainable cotton and yarn sourcing, confirming their support of the development and implementation of the initiative.
The lead authors of the YESS Standard and workbook, Patricia Jurewicz and Liz Muller, visited 16 spinning mills, piloted five trainings at mills in Bangladesh, Turkey, and Uzbekistan, and consulted the public for the development of YESS.
VF Corporation is one company that has already signed on to YESS.
“Spinning mills are the gatekeepers in the cotton supply chain,” said manager of responsible materials and traceability at VF Corp, Shanel Orton.
“VF understands the value of taking an industry-wide approach in YESS.”