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SustainCERT, through its Value Change Initiative and partnership with Regrow
Ag, is working to promote resilience across the cotton value chain.
Cotton is the backbone of the textile industry, helping to bring countless
fabrics to life across the globe. Beyond textiles for the fashion, housewares
and automobile industries, this versatile natural fiber is also used in
everything from healthcare to paper production. A high-value commodity, its
social and environmental impacts are also high — making it an essential factor
in land-based climate action.
of cotton are harvested every year; and although it occupies only 2.5 percent
of the world's agricultural
consumes a significant portion of our resources. The crop uses 16 percent of all
insecticides, 7 percent of herbicides and a staggering amount of water: Cotton
has consumed more than 25 billion tons of
in 2024 thus far — that’s an average of 700 million tons per day.
In order to meet our global climate goals, we must reduce consumption of natural
resources and significantly cut emissions generated from cotton production.
The fashion, apparel and textiles industry has set a goal to reduce greenhouse
gas (GHG) emissions from raw materials and fibers by 45 percent by
and transitioning to sustainable cotton production is a key factor in meeting
that goal. However, in 2021, only 19 percent of total global production
comprised preferred raw materials sourced sustainably. This imbalance raises
concerns — projecting a potential demand-and-supply gap of 133 million tons by
Reducing emissions across the cotton industry is hindered by challenges
including a lack of standardization surrounding its cultivation. Without
universally accepted guidelines, it is difficult to consistently implement and
measure sustainable practices across different value chains — which blocks the
industry’s ability to effectively address and mitigate the environmental impacts
associated with cotton cultivation.
"The challenge with cotton, as with many commodities, lies in the difficulty of
operationalizing guidance,” Silvana
Director of SustainCERT’s Value Change
Initiative (VCI), told Sustainable
Brands®. “Not every value chain aligns perfectly; and the unique farming
system of cotton, involving crop rotation, lacks clear guidance for carbon
accounting. This creates credibility challenges — especially when attributing
the benefits of certain practices.”
SustainCERT, a leading climate-impact verifier and the powerhouse behind the
VCI, has developed innovative ways to operationalize guidance — including the
establishment of a working group to inform best practices and partnering with
Regrow Ag to develop a value-chain decarbonization
The partnership between SustainCERT and Regrow uniquely combines knowledge of
regulatory standards, needs from key industry stakeholders (including
corporations) and tech-based implementation capabilities — offering solutions
that will meet the needs of stakeholders while progressing the industry at
The Value Change Initiative, co-founded by SustainCERT and Gold
Standard, has emerged as a pivotal solution to
tackling the challenges plaguing various industries — including food and
agriculture, and apparel and footwear. Functioning as a practitioner's forum,
VCI brings together major companies, civil society leaders and climate
frameworks to collaboratively define best practices for Scope 3
reductions and removals at scale. Regarding cotton, the initiative helps by
developing clear guidance for sustainable practices, fostering knowledge-sharing
among stakeholders, and facilitating the scaling of value-chain actions.
"We are a practitioner’s forum, helping all actors in the system — from
suppliers to companies, standards, regulators and NGOs. We aim to share
knowledge and educate everyone on greenhouse gas accounting complexities,"
Paniagua explains. "Greenhouse gas accounting is complex — it's not just about
numbers; it's about understanding where these numbers come from and the
implications of different approaches."
VCI builds consensus on effective and scalable interventions — providing a
common understanding for stakeholders, including cotton farmers. By encouraging
organizations to set ambitious targets and net-zero goals, VCI propels the
adoption of sustainable practices in cotton farming, offering a collaborative
space where stakeholders collectively define solutions to enhance environmental
performance across the cotton value chain.
Regrow Ag — a company powering agricultural resilience for today’s leading
— is part of this forum. Regrow’s Agriculture Resilience Platform enables
companies across the ag supply chain to safeguard their commodity supply chains
by accelerating the needed scale of GHG emissions reduction, adoption of
and proactive adaptation to the changing climate.
Alongside other companies and industry stakeholders, Regrow provides guidance on
sustainable practice implementation and regulation.
“Cotton is one of the world’s most significant commodities.” said Jeff
Seale, Regrow’s Director of
Environmental Strategy and Climate Policy. “At Regrow, our mission is to make
agriculture resilient globally — and that cannot happen unless we address
cotton. By contributing to the Value Change Initiative and working with
SustainCERT, we are helping to ensure that farmers and suppliers have access to
sustainable, resilient cotton supply chains.”
To further support their ambitious targets, SustainCERT has partnered with
Regrow to develop its value-chain decarbonization platform.
This platform combines climate expertise with technology to bring credibility
and scope 3 emissions reductions. The platform not only enables companies to
verify their GHG impacts, but also facilitates the transfer of these outcomes
between supply-chain partners. This approach allows companies to collaboratively
invest in GHG reductions and removals — fostering a shared responsibility for
decarbonization and accelerating sustainable practices.
By utilizing Regrow's data- and machine-learning-driven agriculture-resilience
platform, SustainCERT can quantify on-farm
GHG emissions — ensuring a seamless process integrating measurement and
reporting directly into the digital verification system.
Previously, transferring farm-based emissions data from a platform such as
Regrow's to a verification partner such as SustainCERT was a manual and
time-consuming process. However, through the integration of Regrow's platform
with SustainCERT's verification solution, they are introducing an
industry-first, end-to-end solution that streamlines the process — eliminating
the need for manual data transfer through emailed spreadsheets and documents.
"Service providers like Regrow play a pivotal role in this ecosystem,” Paniagua
says. “We work with them to understand the needs of companies — helping them
design or redesign their business offerings. This collaborative approach ensures
alignment with the dynamic requirements of the scope 3 world.”
“Our platform helps companies build the business case for agriculture
resilience,” Seale says. “With our platform, companies can see emissions
baselines, identify areas for growth and secure the resources needed to make
change on a large scale. Together with SustainCERT, we can scale our impact
while ensuring that sustainable practices remain accessible to farmers and their
value-chain partners alike.”
Beyond its immediate impact on efficiency and transparency, the partnership aims
to establish standards and guidance within the cotton industry. By creating a
common language and streamlining processes, Regrow and SustainCERT are fostering
a more sustainable, accountable and standardized future for cotton farming.
"We are a big believer in collective and coordinated action, because companies
need more than just claimable initiatives — collaboration is essential for
long-term sustainable markets and resilient sectors," Paniagua asserts.
The learnings and standards disseminated to the cotton industry through
collaborations such as these will become a cornerstone for industry resilience
and incentivize producers to adopt sustainable practices — which will benefit
local communities and livelihoods, as well as soil and crop health. Resilience
extends beyond farms to encompass farming communities — forming the bedrock for
a robust, resilient and enduring market.
“Contributing to the decarbonization journey not only allows companies to claim
their role in that commodity but also secures a license to operate under
evolving guidelines,” Paniagua says. “Through awareness and strategic
investment, companies can optimize resources, mitigate risks and foster
resilience at many levels.”
Published Feb 8, 2024 8am EST / 5am PST / 1pm GMT / 2pm CET
Scarlett Buckley is a London-based freelance sustainability writer with an MSc in Creative Arts & Mental Health.
This article, produced in cooperation with the Sustainable Brands editorial team, has been paid for by one of our sponsors.