RSN Updates

Read our updates to learn more about RSN’s work.


Costco Pushes Cotton Pledge Signatories to 200!

We would like to congratulate Costco, one of the most recent signatories of the Cotton Pledge to making a commitment against forced labor!

With Costco and its brand Kirkland Signature on board, the total number of companies and brands that have signed the pledge has now reached 200!

RSN would like to reiterate that signing the pledge is only the first step of many for a company to address this issue.  To fulfil upon the commitment of the Cotton Pledge, a signatory should:

  1. Align business practices with the pledge commitment
  2. Collect Country of Origin (COO) documentation for all cotton products and textiles
  3. Involve yarn and textile mills
  4. Engage the Uzbek government
  5. Join RSN’s Responsible Cotton Multi-stakeholder Network (Cotton MSN)

Details on implementing the above steps are given within the Introduction Packet to the Cotton Pledge.

The Uzbek-German Forum for Human Rights (UGF) released its most recent Cotton Chronicle on October 29, 2015, which details the various violations by the Government of Uzbekistan during the 2015 cotton harvest.  Although all of our collaborative efforts, including the commitments of the Cotton Pledge signatories, have contributed to almost entirely eliminating children aged 7 – 15 from the cotton fields, forced labor of older students and adults continues. The Cotton Chronicle documents the exploitation that has continued in Uzbekistan this year, and demonstrates the need for companies to continue efforts to eliminate Uzbek cotton from their supply chains until the abuse stops. 

Thank you Costco, and all 200 signatories for helping to combat forced labor in Uzbekistan. The continued increase in signatories of the pledge is an indication of the strength of the global commitment to reject cotton harvested with forced labor!

By: Tom Sheahan, Cotton Initiative Intern @sheahantom



Bangladesh Decreases Its Use of Uzbek Cotton

A recent study shows that the amount of Uzbek cotton Bangladesh imported in 2014 decreased by over 25% to 721,086 bales. This amount represents 21% of Bangladesh’s import of raw cotton, a far cry from the 63% market share Uzbekistan once held in the textiles and ready-made-garment powerhouse.*

This decline can be attributed to Bangladesh diversifying its cotton sourcing by deliberately increasing its imports from Indian and African countries, but it is also due to factors that have discouraged the use of Uzbek cotton.

One of the main factors referenced that have minimized Uzbekistan’s market share is because of, “some Western retailers rejecting Uzbek cotton on ethical grounds.”

The pressure put on suppliers by some of world’s largest apparel and home goods brands and retailers, which have signed Responsible Sourcing Network’s Cotton Pledge has contributed to this notable decrease in Bangladeshi imports. 

RSN Director Patricia Jurewicz commented, “RSN’s intention when creating the Cotton Pledge was to build a coalition of companies and shift the market away from cotton harvested with forced labor. This study clearly shows that the market is rejecting slave-picked cotton.”

Brand and retailer signatories are commended not only for signing the Cotton Pledge, but for communicating their commitments to their suppliers and eliminating Uzbek cotton from their supply chains.

Signatories should continue with their efforts to engage and educate their suppliers on this issue. Although Uzbekistan has made efforts to minimize its use of forced child labor, it is still forcing over a million adults a year into the fields to harvest cotton. The Uzbek-German Forum for Human Rights reports a number of suicides, deaths, and harassment of human rights defenders in Cotton Chronicle during the 2015 harvest. 

Prospective signatories should be encouraged by this evidence to sign the Cotton Pledge and help keep the pressure on the Uzbek Government to put an end to forced labor in Uzbekistan.




By: Tom Sheahan, Cotton Initiative Intern @sheahantom



RSN Drives Conflict Minerals Reporting Beyond Compliance

Updated September 30, 2015

Clarification on usage of RSN Indicators

Image: Wall Street Journal

Responsible Sourcing Network’s (RSN) reporting efforts were recently mentioned in a Wall Street Journal blog alongside a new study funded by Assent Compliance and designed and executed by Chris Bayer, PhD with assistance from Tulane University researchers. The independent study recognizes RSN’s indicators as the leading guide to assessing conflict minerals reporting “beyond-compliance.” We welcome wider adoption of beyond-compliance practices, as described in RSN’s 2014 Mining the Disclosures report, and congratulate the researchers on the impressive feat of evaluating over 1,200 SEC disclosures.

In response to stakeholders who have voiced confusion about whether RSN participated in this new study and whether its “good practice” score is equivalent to RSN’s own scoring methodology, we would like to clarify that the scores in the study were determined by the researchers without the knowledge or participation of RSN, and RSN does not endorse this study. For disclosures submitted in 2015, a company “good practice” score may differ significantly from RSN’s score for that same company since the researchers did not have access to RSN’s indicator scores, weights, analyst guidance, or our 2015 updates. (Find our 2015 updates in Mining the Disclosures 2015, which contains the only scoring methodology endorsed by Responsible Sourcing Network.)

RSN collaborates with many stakeholders working toward responsible sourcing and we regularly exchange information with NGOs, academics, and companies that request it. We will continue to make the detailed list of RSN’s 2014 indicators publicly available in the interest of transparency and collaboration toward a conflict-free minerals trade. We continue to welcome requests for any use or adaptation of our indicators.

What is unique about RSN’s scoring methodology?

RSN’s proprietary scoring methodology is a comprehensive approach to social reporting, scoring companies across five Measurement Areas. By adopting leading practices into our analysis, RSN encourages action from leading and lagging companies, as well as holding non-filers and minimal filers accountable. Our expectations include compliance indicators but go well beyond the legal requirements of Section 1502 to encourage sourcing conflict-free minerals from the DRC.

Continuous improvement

With guidance from Sustainalytics and sustainable and responsible investors, RSN has pioneered a new approach to evaluating companies’ social performance. Just as we expect companies to validate, test, and improve their methodologies, we too are continuously improving our methodology. To improve the indicators used in the 2014 Mining the Disclosures report, RSN undertook an extensive company engagement process.

RSN looks forward to introducing our newly improved metrics, as well as rankings for 150 companies chosen from a high exposure and large cap industries matrix, in our upcoming 2015 edition of Mining the Disclosures.

Sponsorship of our reports enables us to perform this valuable service. Learn more about becoming a sponsor.


Language Has Been Lost but the Conflict Minerals Rule Remains in Full Force 

Earlier this week the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit released its decision to uphold its previous ruling that requiring companies to declare their products as “not found to be DRC (Democratic Republic of the Congo) conflict free” is in violation of the First Amendment. While this decision is a blow to those who wanted to see this specific designation (if warranted) in companies reporting to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), all of the other reporting requirements regarding conflict minerals remains intact. The bigger question on the minds of many, especially our sustainable and responsible investors (SRI) colleagues is, ‘Will this ruling make it more difficult to ask for corporate transparency on any number of environment, social, and governance (ESG) issues?’

It is critical and needed for companies to be required to report in a standardized format on their connections to egregious human rights abuses in the world; then, the leverage of companies working together can address these atrocities. By having Dodd-Frank Section 1502 on Conflict Minerals implemented, Responsible Sourcing Network (RSN) has started to recognize and reward companies on their social performance. Our analysis can be viewed in our pilot report, Mining the Disclosures, which looked at companies’ 2014 disclosures to the SEC, and our report evaluating 150 companies’ 2015 disclosures is due out this fall.

While the bigger question about transparent reporting on ESG issues is yet to be determined, we at RSN are grateful that the vast majority of the conflict minerals law and its implementing final rule, remain intact. The disclosures themselves must still include all the same information, including a description of efforts to identify country of origin as well as a description of the facilities used to process minerals. Companies can voluntarily use their own language in reporting their conflict-free determination, which the majority did in their 2015 disclosures to the SEC.

The decision to uphold near-full implementation of the law is very important to SRIs, which are relying on the conflict minerals due diligence reporting for brand valuation, risk assessment, and investment decisions. Although companies will not be required to use the exact wording “not found to be DRC conflict free,” this judgment can still be made by reading through companies’ public disclosures.

RSN’s evaluation system of companies’ disclosures remains unchanged; we are continuing to monitor overall due diligence to score human rights performance. We expect companies to commit, assess, respond, and report on their efforts to address conflict minerals in their products, as well as explain how they are making a positive impact in the DRC region. Although it is more difficult without the specific designation, RSN is still informing investors and holding companies accountable that abuse their right to freedom of speech to mislead stakeholders as to the quality of their due diligence and their actions to support conflict-free mining in the DRC.


Trafficking in Persons Report Upgrades Uzbekistan Despite Continued Forced Labor

The Trafficking in Persons (TiP) report, released annually by the U.S. State Dept., has upgraded Uzbekistan from Tier 3 to Tier 2 Watch List, despite the continued widespread practice of state-orchestrated forced labor in the cotton sector. It’s a short-sighted decision that gives a free pass to the Uzbek government. Growing pressure from brands and companies that have signed the Cotton Pledge make it clear to the Uzbek government that business-as-usual cannot continue.

The TiP report also maintained Turkmenistan, another Central Asian nation where the government is complicit in forced labor in the cotton sector, at Tier 2 Watch List. The Cotton Campaign, an RSN coalition partner, has released a report condemning the Turkmenistan’s government use of forced labor: click through to read the Cotton Campaign’s report on forced labor in Turkmenistan.

With pressure from consumers, brands, and the international community, the usage of forced labor is growing in awareness by the day. But when the State Dept. whitewashes human rights abuses, our ability to pressure the Uzbek and Turkmen governments for reforms is diminished.

See the full statement from RSN and the Cotton Campaign below, or view it on the Cotton Campaign website.

U.S. Trafficking in Persons Report 2015 - Upgrades and Downgrades | CNN

Click through to see larger version of image. SOURCE: CNN

Human Trafficking: U.S. Decisions Fails Forced Labor Victims

Uzbekistan placement supports state-sponsored forced labor

Washington, DC, July 27, 2015: Today the U.S. government upgraded the Uzbek government’s ranking in its 2015 Trafficking in Persons Report despite noting that “government-compelled forced labor of adults remains endemic.” The unwarranted decision decreases pressure on the authorities in Tashkent to end forced labor, said the Cotton Campaign in a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry.

“The failure to classify Uzbekistan properly is wholly inconsistent with the well-documented evidence of its systematic human rights abuse,” said Nadejda Ataeva, president at the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia. “The U.S. effectively sent a message to Uzbek authorities that forced labor of millions of its citizens is cost-free.”

The Uzbek government continues to operate one of the largest state-orchestrated systems of forced labor in the world. Furthermore, authorities suppress any attempts by citizens to report on these abuses and continue to publicly deny the use of forced labor. In 2014, the government forced more than a million citizens to harvest cotton and farmers to grow cotton, all under threat of penalty. In only the first half of this year, the Uzbek government forced thousands of citizens to prepare cotton fields for planting, brutalized citizens attempting to document forced labor and deported an international labor expert simply for informing a legally registered human rights group about international labor conventions.

The TIP report cites a government decree reiterating its pre-existing law prohibiting child labor, fined school directors and farmers for child labor, and signed an agreement with the International Labour Organization. The report notes, however, that officials resorted to child labor “under pressure to fulfill government-decreed cotton quotas,” and forced labor is unlike human trafficking in other countries in that it is “government-compelled.” While a system of state-organized forced labor remains in place, the Uzbek government’s commitments and selective actions on child labor cannot be said to represent substantial efforts to comply with the TVPA minimum standards.

In its letter, the Cotton Campaign called on the U.S. to redouble its efforts to persuade the authorities in Tashkent to eliminate forced labor from the cotton sector. In particular, the United States should insist that the Uzbek authorities begin by instructing officials at all levels of government to refrain from using coercion to mobilize citizens to work in the cotton fields and prosecuting all officials who do; committing to an action plan to eradicate forced labor with the International Labour Organization; and permitting citizens and journalists, domestic and foreign, to report human rights violations in the cotton sector without fear of retaliation.

“The practice of forced labor in Uzbekistan has persisted for far too long and should be urgently ended,” said Umida Niyazova, director at the Uzbek-German Forum for Human Rights. “This year’s report missed a crucial opportunity to end this abominable practice sooner.”

Read the Cotton Campaign letter to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry here.

The Cotton Campaign is a global coalition of labor, human rights, investor and business organizations coalesced to end forced labor of children and adults in the cotton sector of Uzbekistan.