RSN 2019 Newsletter
This month is national slavery & human trafficking prevention month, so it’s a great time to update you on Responsible Sourcing Network’s (RSN’s) activities. Last year was exciting because after 11 years I finally visited Uzbekistan. And our spinning mill initiative, YESS: Yarn Ethically & Sustainably Sourced, is coming to fruition!
During my career, I have worked with grassroots organizations, corporations, policy think tanks, and passionate investors. There have been many lessons learned over the years including - how to engage stakeholders, coordinate their actions, and work together to achieve a common goal. This was the
approach used to construct YESS. This will be an industry-wide standard that will create a demand for slave-free cotton. We’re all looking forward to the positive changes YESS will bring to the industry!
Thank you for your support and accompanying us on this journey. Best wishes in 2019!
YESS Standard Launch is Coming Soon!
Last year, as part of RSN’s generous grant from The Walt Disney Company’s Supply Chain Investment Program, the YESS Standardand assessment tools were drafted, circulated for public comment, and tested. In September, RSN vice president, Patricia Jurewicz, and consultant, Liz Muller, spent three jam-packed weeks in Bangladesh, Turkey, and Uzbekistan visiting spinning mills and conducted five feasibility assessments.
They learned that YESS is feasible if there is appropriate training and assistance in engaging global cotton traders. As a welcome, one mill spelled out “YESS” using carrots… and they didn’t even know Patricia’s favorite color is orange!
RSN is now ready to design and implement a YESS Program. Check out our December webinar and slide deck for an update. Companies, foundations, associations, and initiatives are all invited to support and partner with YESS. In 2019, we plan to train auditors, conduct pilot assessments, create a management structure, and start to build membership. Please join us!
Mairin Wilson joined the RSN team in June as an intern to assist with YESS and RSN’s Cotton Program. She is a recent graduate of Middlebury College, where her senior research focused on sustainable cotton supply chains. She has an excellent grasp of the YESS concept and its due diligence approach. She was hired in August as the full-time cotton program associate. Welcome to the team Mairin!
Fifth Annual Mining the Disclosures Released
In October, RSN released its fifth annual Mining the Disclosures report. It provides companies, investors, and other stakeholders with a comparative year-on-year analysis of efforts by 206 corporations to disclose and address the violence linked to conflict minerals in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Regrettably but not surprisingly, corporate due diligence fell short, with few companies increasing their scores.
Holding companies accountable is more important than ever. There is minimal enforcement of the disclosure law. It’s time for companies to step up and adopt more complete due diligence in their supply chains. To learn more, read author Raphaël Deberdt’s blog post.
Turkmen Cotton Pledge
The RSN team is collecting signatures for the Turkmen Cotton Pledge. In October, RSN issued a press release timed with the President of Turkmenistan’s visit to the UN in NYC. To date, 46 brands and retailers have signed the pledge. As with the 2017 cotton harvest, the 2018 Turkmen harvest involved a significant number of teachers, doctors, public sector workers, and even children. Roughly 70% of kindergarten teachers were forced to pick cotton, resulting in overcrowded or unattended classrooms.
In May 2018, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency issued a Withhold Release Order (WRO) stating the importation of “all Turkmenistan cotton or products produced in whole or in part with Turkmenistan cotton” would be stopped from entering the U.S. Now there is more incentive than ever for brands to ensure there is no Turkmen cotton in their products.
Progress in Uzbekistan
In May, Patricia traveled to Uzbekistan and attended multiple meetings with government officials as part of a Cotton Campaign delegation. In almost every meeting, the delegation was asked what is needed to sunset the Uzbek Cotton Pledge. Regrettably, there is still work to do before systemic forced labor is eliminated completely in Uzbekistan, even with increased commitments by its government. Recently, the Cotton Campaign issued a press release stating in-country monitors witnessed thousands of public and private sector employees forced to harvest cotton or pay for replacement pickers.
Join our webinar on Jan. 17 to get an update on the 2018 harvests in Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, and join us in-person in Washington, DC on Feb. 5 (RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org).
Our Commitment to You
Thank you for your part in working to end to modern slavery! We pledge to continue to work to bring RSN’s mission to fruition - Championing human rights with vulnerable communities in the mining and harvesting of raw materials found in products we use every day. Building upon 2018’s progress, 2019 will be spent implementing solutions for the invisible and enslaved workers whose labor is part of making our favorite goods.