SB'24 San Diego is open for registration. Register early and save!

Supply Chain
When It Comes to Sustainable Cotton, Transparency Is Material

Raw material sourcing is more important than ever. Evolving attitudes among brands, retailers and consumers are creating demand for greater sustainability and transparency — starting at the seed and throughout the entire supply chain.

Now more than ever, there is an imperative and understanding for the need to protect and preserve the planet. In October 2021, COP26 brought together many fashion brands and highlighted the need for sustainability within the industry. The event resulted in a new version of the United Nations Environment Program’s fashion industry charter, launched in 2018, which now includes 130 signatories — including Adidas, Burberry, Gap Inc, Kering, Nike and more.

Evolving attitudes and changing priorities among brands, retailers and consumers are creating demand for greater sustainability and transparency — starting at the seed and continuing throughout the entire supply chain. In fact, the updated fashion industry charter highlights the need for collective action in sustainability. It focuses on the need to achieve net-zero emissions globally by 2050, readdressing supply chains, and a shift in attitude from profit driven to well-being of the planet.

With the increased scrutiny on sustainability, brands and retailers want to ensure what they buy is what they get, with raw material sourcing more important today than ever before.

The US cotton industry’s existing commitment to leadership in more sustainable cotton-growing practices has been clear over the past 35 years. It has made significant strides in reducing its environmental impact, decreasing water use, soil loss, greenhouse gas emissions and energy use while increasing soil carbon and land use. But the US cotton industry knew there was still work to be done to ensure that it contributed to the protection and preservation of the planet.

Launched in 2020, the U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol is a farm-level, science-based program that sets a new standard in more sustainably grown cotton. It brings verifiable goals and measurements to cotton production — driving improvements in land use, soil carbon, water management, soil loss, greenhouse gas emissions and energy efficiency.

The Trust Protocol allows US producers to showcase their sustainable practices and how they have been, and will continue to be, leaders in sustainability on a global scale. At the same time, the program was designed to meet the needs of brands and retailers in the fashion and textile industries, which are increasingly expected to show the sourcing data for their products.

“The Trust Protocol measures, evidences and verifies sustainability credentials,” said Dr. Gary Adams, president of the US Cotton Trust Protocol. “With the Trust Protocol, we are providing access to more sustainability grown cotton for brands and retailers; and science-based, data-led assurances that their consumers can have confidence in — something that has been lacking in the industry to date.”

Trust Protocol members have access to aggregate data based on self-assessment questionnaires of participating growers in key sustainability metrics. 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.

But the program does not stop there. Recognizing the growing importance of increased supply chain visibility to brand and retailer members, the Trust Protocol has selected to collaborate with TextileGenesis™ to be the world’s first sustainable cotton fiber to offer its members article-level transparency across the supply chain.

The Protocol Consumption Management Solution (PCMS) combines the Trust Protocol Platform and TextileGenesis traceability platform to provide members with complete supply chain transparency. The PCMS tracks shipments and inventories and ensures only Protocol-eligible materials are used in the production of products. It offers dual verification at every level of transaction — first upon entry by ensuring availability of the eligible raw material and then upon completion — validating the information on the invoices and shipping documents, enabling a higher standard for transparency.

“For sustainability to be meaningful, we understand that the textile supply chain must demonstrate continuous improvement and transparency throughout the entire process — building trust from field to fabric,” Adams said.

In its first year, the Trust Protocol has welcomed more than 560 brand, retailer, mill and manufacturer members — including Levi Strauss & Co; PVH Corp and its brands, Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger; Gap Inc and its Old Navy, Gap, Banana Republic and Athleta brands; as well as global apparel manufacturer Gildan.

To learn more about the US Cotton Trust Protocol, visit