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New YESS Standard for Cotton Fabric Suppliers Targets Forced Labor

As part of its flagship initiative, YESS: Yarn Ethically & Sustainably Sourced-Responsible Sourcing Network has released its first YESS Standard for Fabric Mills: Weaving & Knitting Operations Only, as well as its 2.0 version of YESS Standard for Spinning Mills.

The standards aim to eliminate forced labor involved in cotton production by training and assessing fabric and yarn manufacturers to implement due diligence and address the risk of cotton produced with forced labor within their own supply chains.

“These standards will help establish due diligence expectations throughout global cotton supply chains all the way to the dirt,” said Patricia Jurewicz, CEO of Responsible Sourcing Network and founder of YESS. “After concentrated effort researching, training, piloting and gathering feedback from stakeholders, mills, auditors and brands, we’re excited to make these two standards publicly available so they can have a ripple effect across the industry.”

The YESS standards will assist companies to comply with due diligence regulations, give consumers assurance that brands are using cotton produced with a low risk of forced labor, enable spinning and fabric mills to implement systems to eliminate risk and encourage connection with local stakeholders to prevent and mitigate forced labor involved with cotton production.

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“Our partnership with YESS aligns with our mission to foster transparency and due diligence across supply chains,” said Erin Klett, director of the Supply Chain Tracing & Engagement Methodologies (STREAMS) Project at Verité. “The YESS initiative and its standards will be key in supporting fabric and spinning mills to prioritize where risks of forced labor in cotton production are greatest, with the goal of producing cotton goods in a way that respects human rights.”

Development of the YESS standards was supported by 23 global brand and retailer sponsorships; a grant from the Fair Labor Association, and the Verité STREAMS program, a traceability project funded by the U.S. Department of Labor. Support for version 1.0 of the YESS Standard for Spinning Mills was provided by The Walt Disney Company and Humanity United.

“Thus far, the entire cotton supply chain has been opaque, and it has been difficult for retailers and brands to have an impact on labor conditions at the raw commodity level,” said Liz Muller, principal of Liz Muller & Partners and lead author of both YESS standards. “By building due diligence capacity in the middle of the supply chain, we are encouraging collaboration between every tier to identify and address the problems.”

In addition to the initial research conducted in Bangladesh, India, Turkey and Uzbekistan, Responsible Sourcing Network recently concluded its YESS pilot in India, Pakistan and Malaysia, which contributed to the standards development and confirmed that fabric and spinning mills are capable of conforming to the YESS standards. Additionally, qualified independent auditors were trained on conducting YESS assessments, and resources were developed to support fabric and spinning mills’ ability to meet the requirements of the standards.

Both YESS standards underwent public consultation prior to their publication, and applicable feedback was incorporated into the final versions of the standards and associated training materials. The YESS standards are the foundational documents of the YESS initiative. With them, Responsible Sourcing Network aims to build due diligence capacity throughout the industry.

Responsible Sourcing Network, a non-profit for-benefit organization based in the U.S., strives to end human rights abuses and forced labor connected to the raw materials found in everyday products.