A new data-driven and verifiable standard for more sustainably-grown cotton
Consumers are expecting more from their go-to brands and retailers. Customer demand for brands that align with their own personal beliefs has been on the rise for several years.
A global pandemic and mass protests for social reform are just amplifying consumers’ need for the apparel industry’s commitment to the environment and a more equal society.
According to Nielsen, nearly half of U.S. consumers would change their consumption habits to reduce their impact on the environment. Brands and retailers have responded by signing onto industry-wide pledges and commitments, including the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Fairtrade Foundation’s SustainableCotton Communiqué.
Consumers are moving beyond simply demanding promises of sustainability — now they want proof. While companies have committed to sustainability goals, they need data to show customers their progress. The U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol is designed to bring brands and retailers the sophisticated data collection and independent third-party verification they need to meet their own sustainability promises, while setting a new standard for more sustainably grown cotton.
“Consumers want to engage with brands that share their values and transparently demonstrate their practices in every part of their business, from raw materials choices onward,” said Garry Bell, former vice president of marketing and communications at Gildan and U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol advisor. “While U.S. cotton is known for superior quality and consistency, brands have asked for a systemic approach to demonstrate its sustainability. The U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol is an important step in helping brands drive sustainability throughout supply chains.”
Brands and retailers that align with the Trust Protocol will receive year-over-year aggregate data from growers through extensive questionnaires and the Fieldprint calculator, devised by the Trust Protocol’s data partner, Field to Market: The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture.
This data-based approach, backed up by independent, third-party verification from Control Union Certifications North America, gives brands and retailers the critical assurances that the cotton fiber element of their supply chain is more sustainably grown.
Additionally, Trust Protocol cotton was recently named one of the 36 preferred fibers and materials that more than 170 participating brands and retailers can select from as part of Textile Exchange’s Material Change Index program.
“I’ve spent most of my life working with cotton and have committed the past several decades to helping U.S. farmers raise the bar for sustainable stewardship of their land,” said Dr. Andy Jordan, Consultant, Jordan & Associates and a U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol advisor.
“The U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol is groundbreaking because of its commitment to data and its scalability. The data allows brands and retailers to demonstrate their commitments to their science-based sustainability targets and allows us to walk with U.S. cotton growers on a road of continuous improvement.”
In addition to meeting the sustainability needs of apparel companies, the Trust Protocol will support U.S. growers to keep improving their responsible growing practices to meet the UN’s SDGs.
The Trust Protocol has set ambitious goals across six sustainability metrics for 2025 including land use, soil loss, water use, energy use, greenhouse gas emissions and soil carbon.
U.S. cotton will continue to approach these goals with the same methodology that has already made it a leader in responsibly grown cotton — utilizing a data-driven approach that relies on innovative new technologies, cutting-edge research and best management practices.
As public pressure continues to build, the U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol will allow brands and retailers to prove their sustainability commitments to their customers, while at the same time continuously reducing U.S. cotton’s environmental footprint.
This sponsored content has been provided by the U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol.