YESS Addresses Forced Labor in Cotton Supply Chain

The Responsible Sourcing Network released the YESS: Yarn Ethically & Sustainably Sourced Standard and YESS Workbook. These foundational documents establish an industry-wide approach to identify and address forced labor in cotton sourcing.

The YESS Standard is a specific, practical framework that assess the operations and sourcing procedures of cotton yarn spinning mills. It is a guide for spinners to avoid purchasing cotton that has a high production risk of forced labor. The YESS Standard applies the widely- supported Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains in the Garment and Footwear Sector.

“After years of engaging brands on the issue of forced labor in the cotton sector, it was clear to me that a robust industry-wide initiative was needed to identify and address the harm of forced labor in the upstream cotton supply chain,” Patricia Jurewicz, vice president of the Responsible Sourcing Network and motivating force behind the YESS initiative, said. “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.”

Despite recent improvements and increased support for sustainable cotton initiatives, cotton produced with forced labor still makes its way through global supply chains into clothing sold by major brands and retailers, said the group. YESS will verify if spinning mills are improving or avoiding purchasing cotton produced with forced labor. YESS will give brands, consumers, and regulators assurance that proper action was taken to keep modern slavery out of their cotton products.

Thus far, 77 supporters 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 YESS initiative, and encouraging their peers to join them. Supporters include: adidas, BJ’s Wholesale Club, Hudson’s Bay, HUGO BOSS, Tesco, and others.

Jurewicz and Liz Muller, lead author of the YESS Standard and YESS Workbook, developed the documents with input from brands, spinning mills, industry associations, and labor experts. They visited 16 spinning mills, piloted five trainings, and addressed more than 200 comments from a public consultation process.

“After two years working with Responsible Sourcing Network to research, train spinners and brands, and conduct YESS feasibility assessments, I am more convinced than ever that spinners can conform with the YESS Standard and contribute to reducing and eventually eliminating cotton produced with forced labor from entering the global supply chain,” Muller said.

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