International clothing and textile brands unite for Sustainable Cotton Communiqué

Thirteen of the world’s most renowned clothing and textile companies have signed up to a sustainable cotton communiqué, through which they have pledged to use 100% sustainable cotton by 2025. The CottonConnect REEL Cotton programme and code have been recognised as starting points for businesses aiming to for greater sustainability in their cotton supply chain.

Organised by The Prince’s International Sustainability Unit (ISU) in collaboration with Marks & Spencer and the Soil Association, the pledge is the result of a meeting attended by HRH The Prince of Wales, high level representatives from the companies that have signed up, in addition to senior representatives from non-governmental organisations and standard agencies such as Fairtrade Foundation, Better Cotton Initiative and CottonConnect. The thirteen companies that have signed the sustainable cotton communiqué are: ASOS, Eileen Fisher, Greenfibres, H&M, IKEA, Kering, Levi Strauss & Co., Lindex, M&S, Nike, Sainsbury’s, F&F at Tesco and Woolworths Holdings, together using more than 300,000 tonnes of cotton annually.

Cotton is the world’s most abundantly used natural fibre. Given its global importance and the social and economic challenges it faces, significant improvements need to be made to:

  • Increase the income of smallholder farmers;
  • Eliminate highly hazardous pesticides, and eliminate or reduce the amount of pesticides and synthetic fertilizer used;
  • Reduce water use and improve water quality;
  • Improve soil health, including positive carbon impacts because of more sustainable practices.

Many companies that use cotton are already working alongside various standards to increase productivity, reduce water and pesticide use and improve farmer livelihoods. And while production of more sustainable forms of cotton is higher than ever before, less than one fifth of this is actively sourced by companies as a sustainable material.

Companies that use cotton therefore have a significant role to play in correcting this disparity by building demand for more sustainable cotton. Companies that have signed the sustainable cotton communiqué are at various stages on their journey to using sustainable cotton and recognise that sustainability across the cotton sector cannot be achieved by a few companies alone, and that collaboration across the sector is needed to bring about transformative change.

The communiqué defines sustainable sources as 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).

In addition, CottonConnect’s REEL programme and code provides a starting point for businesses aiming to build greater sustainability in their cotton supply chain. The REEL Cotton Programme is a three-year agricultural programme providing farmers with training on sustainable cotton farming practices. REEL cotton can be fully traced from farmer to store and is proven to increase yields and farm profits while reducing environmental impact through less pesticide and water use. Full details about CottonConnect’s REEL programme can be found here.

The sustainable cotton communiqué is hoped to act as a catalyst to spur a shift in the market towards the use of more sustainable cotton and companies will be required to independently publish their progress from 2018. Read full details of the communiqué here.

Visit our blog page for more information about REEL cotton and to hear more about our work towards improving the lives of smallholder cotton farmers. If you’re a clothing or textile company looking to source more sustainable cotton and want to know how CottonConnect can help you, please get in touch.

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