BY KATIE - MYGREENPOD, 17 Oct '17

36 major clothes and textiles companies pledge to use 100% sustainable cotton by 2025

23 more of the world’s most renowned clothing and textile companies, including Burberry, Adidas, Kathmandu and Timberland have pledged to use 100% sustainable cotton by 2025.

36 major brands and retailers have now signed up to the 100% by 2025 pledge, including four of Forbes magazine’s list of the world’s 10 largest global apparel brands and three of the top 10 UK clothing retailers.

The announcement was made at the annual Textile Exchange Sustainability Conference, where more than 400 textile and apparel leaders have come together to discuss the most important sustainability issues facing the industry.

Demand for sustainable cotton

The pledge – called the sustainable cotton communiqué – demonstrates that there is a demand for more sustainable cotton, and the commitment made by companies will help to drive sustainable practices across the sector.

In turn, this will help alleviate the environmental and social costs that are too often associated with cotton production, including the over-use of pesticides, the release of greenhouse gases, the depletion of local water sources and rising costs of production.

The brands that have committed to the 100% by 2025 pledge are: ASOS, EILEEN FISHER, Greenfibres, H&M, IKEA, Kering, Levi’s, Lindex, M&S, Nike, Sainsbury’s, F&F at Tesco, Woolworths, Adidas, A-Z, BikBOk, Burberry, Burton Snowboards, Carlings, Coyuchi, Cubus, Days like This, Dressmann, Hanky Panky, House of Fraser, Indigenous Designs, KappAhl, Kathmandu, Mantis World, Otto Group, prAna, SkunkFunk, Timberland, Urban, Volt and Wow.

‘The industry is awakening to the necessity of sustainably grown cotton. It is great to see additional brands joining this initiative to accelerate the momentum of cotton production in a way that will positively impact smallholder farmers, water quality and soil health.’

LA RHEA PEPPER
Managing director, Textile Exchange

This initiative recognises several existing standards as delivering sustainable cotton: Organic, Fairtrade, Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), Cotton Made in Africa and recycled cotton certified to an independently verifiable standard such as the Global Recycled Standard (GRS) or the Recycled Claim Standard (RCS). CottonConnect’s REEL programme and code provide a starting point for businesses aiming for greater sustainability in their cotton supply chain.

The issue with cotton

Cotton is the most abundantly produced natural fibre and its production supports the livelihoods of over 350 million people. Despite its global importance, cotton production can be beset by a number of environmental and social challenges.

Whilst cotton only covers 2.4% of the world’s arable land, it accounts for 6% of global pesticide use. With around 2,720 litres of water needed to make just one T-shirt, conventional cotton production is highly dependent on water.

Higher temperatures and changing rainfall patterns caused by climate change are likely to cause severe water shortages in some areas, and increase the prevalence of pests and diseases, negatively affecting yields.

The challenges of the cotton sector are also social and economic, with cotton farmers and their dependents negatively impacted by the over-use of pesticides and petroleum based fertilisers, plus rising costs of production and volatile market prices.

Scaling up

There have been substantial gains made over the past few years in scaling the production of more sustainable forms of cotton, which is now higher than ever at over 3 million tonnes in 2016. However, companies are actively sourcing less than a fifth of this available sustainable cotton.

In order for sustainable cotton to become standard business practice, the amount of sustainable cotton grown and bought must increase significantly. The sustainable cotton pledge sends a signal to millions of producers that there is a real demand for a more sustainable approach to cotton production that reduces the environmental and social costs.

The companies that have pledged their support are at various stages on their journey to using sustainable cotton, with some already securing all of their cotton from sustainable sources. However, all are clear that collaboration across the sector is needed to bring about transformative change.

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