Adidas, Marks and Spencer, Patagonia and Phillips-Van Heusen have been named among the companies taking the most comprehensive steps to stop cotton from Uzbekistan picked with forced labour from entering their supply chains.

A survey of 49 apparel and home goods firms released by the Responsible Sourcing Network (RSN) looked at what the companies are doing to identify risks, establish policies, implement procedures, and disclose practices to eliminate and prevent incidents of forced labour in cotton harvesting.

Evaluations covered 11 indicators across policy, public disclosure, engagement, and implementation and auditing.

While only five companies scored over 50 points, 19 companies scored under 25 points, and two companies scored zero. Among those with the lowest rankings were Costco, Forever 21 and Sears, with All Saints and Urban Outfitters coming last according to the report.

"Although almost 80% of the companies surveyed have some sort of policy against Uzbek cotton, most companies are taking little to no action to be absolutely certain the cotton in their products is not originating in Uzbekistan," said Patricia Jurewicz, director and founder of RSN and co-author of the 'Cotton Sourcing Snapshot: A Survey of Corporate Practices to End Forced Labor.'

"Yet, there are several companies that have implemented systems that guarantee the integrity of their raw materials. All companies could easily replicate these best practices."

The use of forced and child labour to pick Uzbekistan's cotton crop is well-documented. However, while international pressure means children aged 6-14 are now largely excluded, the Uzbek government is mobilising even greater numbers of teenagers, university students, and adults.

The report found that only 2% of companies surveyed fully disclose progress and/or challenges with their strategies on Uzbek cotton, and only 6% have fully implemented a traceability or spinner verification programme.

Of those that do implement best practices, 18.5% are involved in spinner efforts individually or through another initiative; 16% provide training and require their suppliers/spinners to abide by their policies; an additional 8% also include this in their supplier contracts; and 12% have independent third-party audits of their spinners/mills.