Luckily RMI offers ample support to the SORs (at no cost) to help them meet these new expectations. RMI provides trainings, advisory services and support (the work I am currently conducting), and other helpful tools and resources. These resources help SORs that would otherwise not know how to get started to develop a foundational program that positions them for success. And, for those that identify risks in their supply chains, they can aid in addressing or mitigating those risks with the support of the RMI community.
The aspect of the RMI program that excites me the most at the moment is the newly created fund to financially support conflict and human rights abuse assessments in CAHRAs. SORs operate on very slim profit margins and would otherwise struggle to pay for the required assessments. In addition, assessing conflict or human rights abuses on the ground requires a special expertise that most, if not all, SORs lack. Without RMI’s support, high-quality assessments at mine sites would be very limited.
Unlike RMI, which just celebrated 10 years of impact, YESS is a fledgling initiative that proudly completed the critical first steps of establishing a global standard complete with assessment tools and trainings. The YESS standard will be published in March or April of 2019 after nearly a year-long public consultation and Feasibility Assessment process. The public consultation process resulted in much more detail on the methodology used to evaluate which cotton-producing countries are considered high-risk for forced labor on cotton farms under the YESS standard. The final standard includes an annex with the methodology and results.
The September 2018 Feasibility Assessment included visiting four spinners (the cotton supply chain’s initial processors) in Bangladesh and Turkey to assess current sourcing procedures and operations against the YESS standard as well as the spinners’ ability and willingness to make adjustments in order to conform with the YESS standard. Many of these changes centered on adding clarity or specification to the YESS standard to help spinners and other readers understand the intention and expectations of the standard better.
In addition to publicly launching the final YESS standard this year, YESS will focus on piloting its assessment program by training and assessing five to ten spinning mills against the YESS standard as well as strengthening support for YESS by expanding its working group and increasing its partnership with stakeholders (e.g. funders, partners, in-kind contributors).
Establishing these two important elements of a standard-based assessment initiative will position YESS to grow within two important segments of the value chain--spinners, to whom the YESS standard applies, and brands, who can encourage spinners to participate in YESS—while engaging other affected and supporting stakeholders.
With these goals in mind, YESS is actively seeking funding to position itself for scaling up the initiative in 2020 and beyond. Please let me or Patricia Jurewicz, Vice President and Founder of the Responsible Sourcing Network that created YESS, know if your organization would like to support YESS’s effort to eradicate forced labor from cotton farms globally or if you know of donor organizations that might help fund this initial start-up phase of this important initiative.
I look forward to the opportunity to update you on the progress RMI and YESS make over the next year and beyond!