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September 16, 2022

Standard launched for yarn makers to eliminate forced labour in cotton production

A new standard has been launched for fabric mills, aimed at eliminating forced labour in cotton production by equipping yarn manufacturers with the tools to carry out the due diligence necessary and address the issue.

By Hannah Abdulla

YESS: Yarn Ethically & Sustainably Sourced, Responsible Sourcing Network 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 aimed at eliminating forced labour in cotton supply chains by training and assessing fabric and yarn manufacturers to implement due diligence and address the risk of cotton produced with forced labour 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 labour, enable spinning and fabric mills to implement systems to eliminate risk, and encourage connection with local stakeholders to prevent and mitigate forced labour involved with cotton production.

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 project, a traceability project funded by the US Department of Labor under cooperative agreement number IL-35805. Support for version 1.0 of the YESS Standard for Spinning Mills was provided by The Walt Disney Company and Humanity United.

“Our partnership with YESS aligns with our mission to foster transparency and due diligence across supply chains,” stated 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 prioritise where risks of forced labour in cotton production are greatest, with the goal of producing cotton goods in a way that respects human rights.”

Liz Muller, principal of Liz Muller & Partners, and lead author of both YESS standards, said: “Thus far, the entire cotton supply chain has been opaque, and it has been difficult for retailers and brands to have an impact on labour conditions at the raw commodity level. 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.”

Yesterday, the European Commission revealed steps to ban products made with forced labour from circulating within the EU market.

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