U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol
Published 1 year ago.
About a 4 minute read.
Image: Mark Stebnicki/Pexels
/ This article is sponsored by
U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol.
Through new technologies, data collection and third-party verification, brands and retailers now have the critical assurances they need to show that the cotton fiber in their supply chain is more sustainably grown, with lower environmental and social risk.
It all comes down to water use. Whether it’s in our own personal lives or the
brands and retailers we patronize, lowering our water use is a significant part
of how we reduce our environmental impact. And it matters in the raw materials
these brands and retailers decide to source.
Contrary to popular belief, cotton is not a water-intensive crop. According to
global averages about cotton’s environmental impact can be misleading, as they
fail to capture huge local variations in resource usage and impacts. While
global data can be useful to tell whether cotton’s overall impact is going up or
down decade over decade, content and local data are key. Currently, two-thirds
of cotton grown in the US is not irrigated, utilizing natural rainfall to grow.
Roughly one-third uses irrigation to supplement natural rainfall and only 2
percent is solely dependent on irrigation.
Water-sensing technology helps growers map and track where water is needed
throughout their fields. Irrigation-scheduling technology and drip irrigation
ensure water is soaked into the ground. Growers can also measure water
evaporation from the soil and plants. All these practices ensure growers are
taking advantage of every drop of water. Thanks to these innovations and
technologies, US cotton growers have reduced water use by 79 percent over the
past 35 years.
The U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol aims to tell the
true story about US cotton and its water use. With growing demand for
transparency about brands’ and retailers’ water use and their raw materials, the
Trust Protocol sets a new standard in more sustainably grown cotton. It brings
quantifiable and verifiable goals and measurement to sustainable cotton
production and drives continuous improvement in key sustainability metrics.
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It is a system that underpins and verifies US cotton’s sustainability progress
through sophisticated data collection and independent third-party verification,
providing brands and retailers the critical assurances they need to show that
the cotton fiber element of their supply chain is more sustainably grown, with
lower environmental and social risk.
In the face of climate change, brands and retailers have set comprehensive
sustainability plans with significant objectives for their businesses. And US
cotton growers are continuously improving their sustainability practices by
employing new technologies to lower their water use.
Growers have introduced systems such as computer-driven moisture sensors — which
improve water efficiency by alerting them to periods of sufficient rainwater and
showing them water-level measurements at a series of distances below ground
level. These advancements enable growers to understand if their cotton is
receiving enough water at all levels. By receiving a picture of the soil’s
moisture, farmers can irrigate their fields more efficiently — if irrigation is
needed at all. Almost two-thirds of US cotton
now employ some type of precision
“We track every drop of water that we apply to our fields year-to-year,” said
Aaron Barcellos, a Trust Protocol grower member from California. “We
have soil probes in our fields and use satellite imagery. We have an agronomist
that helps with irrigation scheduling and crop coefficients. All of these
changes allow us to eliminate waste and put every drop of water to use.”
In 2020/21, Trust Protocol grower members showed significant improvement in
water use increasing efficiency by 14 percent — compared to the 2025 US
National Goal for Continuous Improvement of increased efficiency by 18
As a member of the Trust Protocol, mills, merchants, brands and retailers will
gain access to US cotton with sustainability credentials proven via Field to
Market: The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture, measured via the Fieldprint
Calculator and verified with Control
Mill and manufacturer members can also be identified as part of a fully
and selected by brands and retailers as they look to source more sustainably
grown US cotton fiber.
The Trust Protocol has welcomed more than 560 brand, retailer, mill and
manufacturer members since its launch in
— including J.Crew, Madewell, Levi Strauss & Co., Gap Inc. and
Gildan; and UK retailers Tesco and Next Plc.
It’s on all of us — growers, brands, retailers, mills, manufacturers and
consumers — to use water more responsibly. The US Cotton Trust Protocol provides
the verified data to show that we’re using less of our natural resources when it
comes to the clothes we wear.
Become a member today at TrustUSCotton.org.
Published Mar 24, 2022 8am EDT / 5am PDT / 12pm GMT / 1pm CET
This article, produced in cooperation with the Sustainable Brands editorial team, has been paid for by one of our sponsors.