Two leading Pakistani textile manufacturers, Artistic Fabric Mills (AFM) Ltd and Nishat Mills Ltd, underwent YESS assessments at their spinning facilities to identify and address cotton produced with forced labour that may be in their supply chains.

It was carried out in concurrence with a series of due diligence and traceability workshops held in Faisalabad, Lahore, and Karachi with the theme of Pakistan’s cotton and textile sectors gaining a competitive edge by improving their labour rights due diligence—including the elimination of child and forced labour—and increasing supply chain transparency with enhanced traceability.

Additionally, the organisation explains that to normalise due diligence, introduce traceability tools and educate stakeholders on growing expectations from international brands and retailers, three YESS workshops were conducted for the Pakistani industry stakeholders.

“This is a historic event,” said Patricia Jurewicz, CEO of Responsible Sourcing Network (RSN) and founder of YESS. “Several years have gone into researching and developing the YESS Standards for spinning and fabric mills, so it is exciting and gratifying to see them implemented with the first-ever independent YESS assessments. We applaud the mills that took this on.”

“We appreciate the methods of YESS and Elevate regarding forced labour and sustainable cotton inputs. Nishat is committed to only sourcing cotton inputs that are sustainable and free of forced labour. By implementing the GTP tools and YESS Standard, we can demonstrate that we are indeed being responsible with our sourcing practices, said Muhammad Mumtaz, General Manager Spinning & Cotton Procurement, at Nishat Mills, Ltd.

“Brands require complete transparency along the supply chain,” added Saba Iqbal, Director of Operations at Artistic Fabric Mills (AFM), Ltd. “We believe the approach that Elevate and YESS are promoting will be effective in enabling us to provide this information with ease.”

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YESS, launched in September last year, utilises the OECD risk-based due diligence approach to identify and eliminate cotton produced with forced labour from apparel supply chains.

Responsible Sourcing Network (RSN), which is at the forefront of YESS, collaborated with Elevate as part of its Global Trace Protocol (GTP) project to conduct inaugural third-party due diligence assessments. These assessments were organised by GTP with funding by the US Department of Labor.

Jeff Wheeler, director of the Global Trace Protocol project at Elevate, said: “RSN’s YESS initiative provides a very valuable tool that enhances a robust approach to due diligence, supported by traceability, in line with GTP objectives and the business interests of Pakistan’s cotton and textile sectors.”

The Lahore workshop was co-sponsored by the All Pakistan Textile Mills Association (APTMA) and WWF-Pakistan, both promoters of sustainable textile production in Pakistan. The workshops were well received because they are said to have come at a time when strict legislation and regulations are being imposed on global brands to protect workers’ rights, secure safe working environments, and minimise environmental footprints within their supply chains.