Supply Chain
adidas, Woolworths Among Brands Saying YESS to Slavery-Free Cotton

Today, the Responsible Sourcing Network (RSN), a project of the nonprofit As You Sow, launched its newest initiative, YESS: Yarn Ethically & Sustainably Sourced. YESS will work to eradicate modern slavery in cotton harvesting and yarn production by enabling yarn spinners to identify and eliminate cotton produced with forced labor, and be verified for having fair labor practices. The development of YESS is supported by Humanity United.

Major brands and retailers have endorsed a Statement of Support for this approach including adidas, Hudson’s Bay Company, Indigenous and Woolworths Holdings. YESS will assist companies to comply with new anti-slavery regulations, minimize verification costs, establish an industry-wide traceability approach, and manage a global list of verified spinners. Current multi-stakeholder endorsements are linked here.

While there are numerous projects that engage farmers and factory workers to improve labor conditions, YESS is one of just a few initiatives working directly with spinning mills. Located in the middle of the supply chain, spinning mills are uniquely positioned to identify cotton produced with forced labor and prevent it from entering corporate supply chains. This initiative identifies a gap in transparency between where forced labor occurs in the cotton fields and the facilities in which different cottons are blended together. YESS aims to close this gap by focusing on yarn spinning mills in the supply chain, and establishing a training, assessment, and verification process. Identifying and addressing the forced and bonded labor of young women in spinning mills in southern India will also be incorporated into this initiative. YESS plans to coordinate its activities with industry-wide sustainable and ethical sourcing platforms.

“It is an open secret that the garment and textile supply chain is rife with forced labor and other human rights abuses. However, it is not inevitable that this should be the case. In Uzbekistan, we have seen how economic and political pressure has helped remove the youngest children from the cotton fields,” said Dr. Aidan McQuade, director of Anti-Slavery International, one of the YESS Working Group members. "The YESS initiative represents an honorable effort to clean up opaque parts of the system. It is vital that businesses work with initiatives like YESS to establish transparency and promote workers' human rights."

As new laws require companies to report on their actions to address modern slavery and human trafficking, more consumers demand ethical manufacturing of their products, and investors increase benchmarking companies against one another on their human rights’ records, YESS will be a vital tool for compliance and responsible sourcing.

“YESS offers a truly revolutionary approach that will allow apparel brands to identify and root out forced labor from the middle of our supply chains,” said Scot Leonard, co-founder and CEO of Indigenous. “This will have a global impact once it is fully implemented. The time is now for the industry to join together and address these forced labor challenges.”

.For more information and to endorse the Statement of Support, visit http://www.sourcingnetwork.org/yess/.

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