Supply Chain Characteristics that Impact Traceability

Traceability Takeaways

  • The nature of forced and child labor in the production of silk cocoons varies depending on the country. In some producing countries, labor abuses are state-imposed, while in others, the risk occurs in the private sector. When companies wish to screen out silk produced in countries with a risk of state-imposed forced or child labor, forensic testing could be a useful tool to validate silk origins.
  • Silk cocoon production does not require significant capital and therefore can take place in rural farms and homes.1Vishwanath, Ms. Lata. “Silk Industry in India: The Story Behind the Sheen of the Indian Queen of Textiles.” Teri The Energy and Resources Institute, 13 December 2021, Small rural farms that produce silk cocoons typically have low administrative capacity, so traceability systems should be flexible and maintain feasibility in contexts where record keeping is paper-based rather than digitized. At the same time, silk cocoon production is an important source of income for thousands of families, so downstream companies should be cognizant that systems that are overly burdensome for small producers may be counterproductive.

Nature of Labor Rights Risk/Vulnerable Workers

Forced Labor or Trafficking in Persons cited by U.S. Government

Risk of Forced Labor or Trafficking in Persons cited by other source

Risk of Child Labor cited by other source

Documented presence of other vulnerable workers

Child Labor cited by U.S. Government

Documented presence of migrant workers

Documented presence or significant likelihood of third-party labor recruiters

Features of Production and Supply Chain

Large numbers of dispersed, unorganized, or informal small producers or other worksites

Multiple points of aggregation, co-mingling, and/or transformation across supply chain

Complex/opaque supply chains and/or lack of vertical integration

High degree of flexibility in procurement practices of downstream entities

Distribution of Labor Risk in Various Production Areas

Scale or nature of risk varies significantly based on geographic area of production

Scale or nature of risk is strongly associated with certain types of suppliers/entities

Scale or nature of risk is present across multiple tiers or nodes of supply chain (including in associated downstream or upstream goods)

Linked Upstream and Downstream Risks

Risk in Nodes in Silk Cocoon Production

Silk cocoons are produced through sericulture, which is the process of raising silkworm caterpillars to produce raw silk.23Rogers, Kara. “Sericulture: Silk Production.” Encyclopedia Sericulture requires mulberry plants, the primary food source for silkworms, and silkworm eggs as primary inputs.24Sharma, Sushma et al. “Production Activities and Value Chain Analysis of Sericulture in Western Inner Terai Region of Nepal.” International Journal of Social Sciences and Management, 28 April 2021, After they hatch, silkworms are fed mulberry leaves for approximately six weeks.25“How is Silk Made? A Step by Step Guide.” Biddle Sericulture producers are generally small-scale,26Sharma, Sushma et al. “Production Activities and Value Chain Analysis of Sericulture in Western Inner Terai Region of Nepal.” International Journal of Social Sciences and Management, 28 April 2021, and the six-week process of feeding silkworms is a labor-intensive task that must be performed throughout the day and night. After six weeks, silkworms spin cocoons, which are each made from a single filament of silk. Cocoons are then processed to achieve thread extraction: cocoons are boiled in water to kill the silkworm larva, and then the cocoon filament is unwound and reeled; additional processing steps include deflossing and throwing the filament to produce raw silk thread.27“How is Silk Made? A Step by Step Guide.” Biddle; Sharma, Sushma et al. “Production Activities and Value Chain Analysis of Sericulture in Western Inner Terai Region of Nepal.” International Journal of Social Sciences and Management, 28 April 2021,; Rogers, Kara. “Sericulture: Silk Production.” Encyclopedia Raw silk then moves on to further processing to create silk yarn, fabric, and end products. To learn more about silk processing and production, read the Silk Thread and Silk Fabric profiles.

Mulberry nursery, planting, and maintenance

Rearing of silkworms

Cocoon harvest

Associated Upstream Goods with Labor Risk

Mulberry leaves are a key input for producing silkworms and silk cocoons.

Associated Downstream Goods and Consumer Sectors

Textiles Apparel and Luxury Goods

Silk cocoons are used to produce silk thread and silk fabrics, which are in turn used for textiles and garments.

Cosmetics and Personal Care

There is a growing market for silk cocoon-based skin-care formulas.

Top Global Countries

  1. Brazil28ITC Trade Map, List of exporters for the selected product in 2021. Product: 5001 Silkworm cocoons suitable for reeling. 2021,
  2. Tajikistan
  3. Azerbaijan
  4. Turkey
  5. India
  6. Kazakhstan
  7. Afghanistan
  8. China
  9. Kyrgyzstan
  10. United Kingdom
  1. India29Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Crops and livestock products. 2021,
  2. China
  3. Uzbekistan
  4. Vietnam
  5. Thailand
  6. North Korea
  7. Brazil
  8. Iran
  9. Tajikistan
  10. Afghanistan

Examples & Resources: Traceability Efforts Associated With Silk Cocoons