YESS (Yarn Ethically & Sustainably Sourced) is an initiative developed by Responsible Sourcing Network over several years to establish rigorous due diligence standards for achieving a forced labour-free cotton supply chain in the garment and textile sector.

The official presentation of the YESS standards took place on 2 May 2023, at a workshop in Bengaluru, Karnataka, attended by key industry stakeholders. The workshop emphasised the importance of due diligence in creating an ethical supply chain for cotton sourcing and advancing the goal of eradicating forced labour.

Patricia Jurewicz, CEO of Responsible Sourcing Network, said: “This joint effort represents a significant milestone in the pursuit of responsible and transparent cotton supply chains. As we expand conducting assessments in India later this year, we invite industry members to join this collective advancement and have their mills trained and assessed.”

Following the workshop, YESS initiated independent assessments in India, beginning with Shahi Exports’ knitting and spinning facilities in Shivamogga. The YESS programme evaluates mill management systems and inventory controls to identify, assess, and mitigate forced labour risks, in accordance with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) due diligence framework. Shahi, one of the seven global suppliers that piloted the YESS Standards in 2022, has now become the first mill in India to take the lead in implementing robust due diligence measures.

Anant Ahuja, head of organisational development at Shahi Exports, added: “As India’s largest apparel manufacturer and exporter, Shahi is committed to producing goods using ethical, fair, and sustainable practices. We recognise that efforts towards traceability require industry collaboration, and we are confident that YESS will provide valuable support in achieving this goal.”

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Despite already operating with stringent cotton sourcing checkpoints, the YESS assessment provided Shahi Exports with additional insights to further enhance their management processes, responding to evolving legislation and growing consumer demand for traceability and freedom from forced labour.

Recognising the crucial role of spinners and textile mills as gatekeepers in the intricate cotton-sourcing landscape, YESS said it acknowledges their position and values its partnership in uniting the industry’s agenda across the global supply chain.

Better Cotton, in collaboration with companies including C&A, Marks & Spencer, Target, and Walmart, has been testing traceability solutions from Retraced, TextileGenesis, Haelixa and Tailorlux to determine the best way to boost transparency across India’s cotton supply chains.