Turkmen Cotton Investor Statement

International investors can sign this statement to encourage home goods and apparel brands and retailers to take action to address the risk of forced labor in the cotton fields of Turkmenistan. Companies using Turkmen cotton face legal, financial, and reputational risks, and are confronted with a grave moral concern. RSN will share it with brands and retailers during engagement efforts to identify and address forced labor in their cotton supply chains.

Background

In Turkmenistan, the world’s eleventh-largest exporter of cotton, the cotton industry is completely controlled by the government. Alternative Turkmenistan News (now turkmen.news, a civil media organization that tracks Turkmen cotton production, reported that the Turkmen government forces tens of thousands of adult citizens to labor in the harvest each year with the threat of dismissal or salary deductions from their normal jobs. In May 2018, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency issued a Withhold Release Order (WRO) stating the importation “all Turkmenistan cotton or products produced in whole or in part with Turkmenistan cotton” could be stopped from entering the United States.

Responsible Sourcing Network (RSN) has created two initiatives to address forced labor in Turkmenistan. First, working with the Cotton Campaign—a multi-stakeholder coalition—RSN created the Turkmen Cotton Pledge, which commits companies to not knowingly sourcing cotton from Turkmenistan until forced labor in its cotton sector has been eliminated. Along with the U.S. WRO, the Turkmen Cotton Pledge has the potential of contributing the needed pressure to create meaningful change in Turkmenistan’s cotton sector.

Second, RSN created and is developing the implementation of the initiative YESS: Yarn Ethically & Sustainably Sourced. This initiative is designed to train and verify cotton yarn spinning mills on implementing due diligence programs that prevent and eliminate cotton produced with forced labor from entering global supply chains. The YESS initiative provides a specific and practical framework for spinners to avoid forced-labor-cotton from high-risk countries, such as Turkmenistan. Thus, YESS can ensure that brands are not sourcing Turkmen cotton.

Investor Statement ASKS

The signatories of this letter believe it is essential for companies and their industry associations to acknowledge and address the well-documented use of modern-day slavery in Turkmen cotton production. To do their part in stopping cotton produced with forced labor from entering supply chains, the undersigned investors recommend companies take the following steps:

1. Sign the Turkmen Cotton Pledge to prove their commitments to not knowingly sourcing cotton from Turkmenistan.

2. Assure implementation of the pledge by supporting the initiative YESS: Yarn Ethically & Sustainably Sourced.

Modern slavery in Turkmenistan is of concern to us all, and collective action must be taken by industry, government, investors, and consumers to eradicate it. We are asking that all organizations leverage their influence to solve this egregious problem.

Signatories

The following Investors have signed the investor statement.

Total Signatories: 84

Total AUM (U.S. Dollars): $859 billion

Last Updated: August 26, 2019