YESS: Yarn Ethically & Sustainably Sourced

New Initiative Seeks to Drive Out Cotton and Yarn Produced with Forced Labor Out of Corporate Supply Chains

Oakland, CA – September 1, 2016 – Today, Responsible Sourcing Network (RSN), a project of the non-profit As You Sow, launched its newest initiative, YESS: Yarn Ethically and Sustainably Sourced. YESS will work to eradicate modern slavery in cotton harvesting and yarn production by enabling yarn spinners to identify and eliminate cotton and yarn produced with forced labor. The spinners will also be verified for having fair labor practices. Cotton produced by forced labor, documented in at least nine countries according to the U.S. Department of Labor, makes its way into clothing and home goods sold by major brands and retailers. This program will pilot in India and China, which have a lot of spinning mills and where the problem is particularly egregious.

Major brands and retailers have endorsed a Statement of Support for this approach including Adidas, Jade Marketing, and Woolworths Holdings. YESS will assist companies to comply with new anti-slavery regulations, minimize verification costs, establish an industry-wide traceability approach, and manage a global list of verified spinners.

“Although many of our corporate Cotton Pledge signatories know that this is a vulnerable spot in their supply chains, they haven’t known how to address the problem,” said Patricia Jurewicz, Director of RSN and creator of YESS. “YESS is providing an innovative solution around which the entire industry can collaborate and contribute.”

While there are numerous projects that engage farmers and factory workers to improve labor conditions, YESS is one of just a few initiatives working directly with spinning mills. Located in the middle of the supply chain, spinning mills are uniquely positioned to identify cotton produced with forced labor and prevent it from entering corporate supply chains. This initiative identifies a gap in transparency between where forced labor occurs in the cotton fields and the facilities in which different cottons are blended together. YESS aims to close this gap by focusing on yarn spinning mills in the supply chain, and establishing a training, assessment, and verification process. Identifying and addressing the forced and bonded labor of young women in spinning mills in southern India will also be incorporated into this initiative. YESS plans to coordinate its activities with industry-wide sustainable and ethical sourcing platforms.

“It is an open secret that the garment and textile supply chain is rife with forced labor and other human rights abuses. However, it is not inevitable that this should be the case. In Uzbekistan, we have seen how economic and political pressure has helped remove the youngest children from the cotton fields,” said Dr. Aidan McQuade, Director of Anti-Slavery International. "The YESS initiative represents an honorable effort to clean up opaque parts of the system. It is vital that businesses work with initiatives like YESS to establish transparency and promote workers' human rights."  

As new laws require companies to report on their actions to address modern slavery and human trafficking, more consumers demand ethical manufacturing of their products, and since investors benchmark companies against one another, YESS will be a vital tool for compliance and responsible sourcing.

“YESS offers a truly revolutionary approach that will allow us and our peers to identify and root out forced labor from the middle of our value chains,” said Scot Leonard, Co-Founder and CEO of Indigenous, one of the YESS Working Group members. “This will have a global impact once it is fully implemented. The time is now for the industry to join together and address these forced labor challenges.”

For more information and to endorse the Statement of Support, visit

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CONTACT: Kristin Costa, Communications Associate, As You Sow (510) 735-8164 or

Responsible Sourcing Network (RSN) RSN champions human rights with vulnerable communities in the mining and harvesting of raw materials found in products we use every day.