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BERKELEY – The YESS (Yarn Ethically and Sustainably Sourced) initiative has released two new standards aimed addressing forced labour. The YESS Standard for Fabric Mills: Weaving & Knitting Operations Only and version 2.0 of the YESS Standard for Spinning Mills aim to help fabric and yarn manufacturers to address forced labour risk in supply chains.

The standards aim to eliminate forced labor involved in cotton production 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.”

It is claimed 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.

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

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 U.S. Department of Labor.

“Thus far, the entire cotton supply chain has been opaque, and it has been difficult for retailers and brands to have an impact on labor 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,” said due diligence expert Liz Muller, principal of liz muller & partners, and lead author of both YESS standards.

In addition to the initial research conducted in Bangladesh, India, Turkey and Uzbekistan, Responsible Sourcing Network recently concluded its YESS pilot in India, Pakistan, and Malaysia, which contributed to the standards’ development and confirmed that fabric and spinning mills are capable of conforming to the YESS standards. Additionally, qualified independent auditors were trained on conducting YESS assessments, and resources were developed to support fabric and spinning mills’ ability to meet the requirements of the standards.

Both YESS standards underwent public consultation prior to their publication, and applicable feedback was incorporated into the final versions of the standards and associated training materials.

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