set a new standard for more sustainable cotton

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Forest fires, rising temperatures and flash floods: the tangible impact of climate change has been felt across the world this summer.

And as sustainability issues continue to be a high priority for consumers, the fashion industry is increasingly under scrutiny.

Recently, activist Greta Thunberg called current fashion environmental efforts “green bleach” on the cover of Vogue magazine, and the industry is likely to be a key topic at the upcoming United Nations COP26 environmental summit in Glasgow later this year.

Brands and retailers need to be confident that the materials and methods used to create their products can withstand this new scrutiny. One way to do this is to partner with third-party initiatives that help set the standard for sustainability. For the raw material production element of the fashion supply chain, the US Cotton Trust Protocol is exactly that.

Founded in 2020, the Trust Protocol is a new program focused on cotton grown in a more sustainable way. It has over 450 members, including fashion and retail giants Next, Levi Strauss & Co and Tesco.

The Trust Protocol provides members with full transparency throughout the supply chain, from farm to tissue, as well as the delivery of measurable and verified data. These farm-level data confirms the credentials of more sustainably grown American cotton, which is based on a philosophy of continuous improvement, at the heart of cotton production in the United States.

The US cotton industry takes sustainability seriously, and MOU cotton producers are striving to meet ambitious environmental goals, including reducing soil loss by 50%, greenhouse gas emissions. greenhouse by 39% and water consumption by 18%, all by 2025.

Cotton field

Producers complete a detailed questionnaire to gather information about their sustainability processes in nine key areas, such as water use, which is proven via Field to Market, measured by the field calculator and later verified with third-party Control Union (CUC) certifications.

For retailers and brands, the trust protocol helps to know exactly where and how the cotton they are buying was grown. As part of the Protocol Consumption Management Solution (PCMS), blockchain technology tracks and verifies ‘more sustainably grown’ cotton throughout the supply chain, from ginning to mill. , through to the finished product.

Fashion companies are given a transparency map that provides the authenticated origin of American cotton, along with the names and locations of the factory Trust Protocol members who have been involved in all parts of the production process, in the products. finishes that are shipped to the brand or retailer.

At this point, brands or retailers can claim protocol cotton consumption units, which contain a proportional amount of the total farm-level environmental data captured. This allows the brand or retailer to start making their own sustainability claims and communicating progress to customers and other stakeholders, including investors and shareholders.

The Trust Protocol’s work has already been recognized by leading environmental organizations: in 2020, its cotton was added to Textile Exchange’s list of preferred fibers, defined as a fiber or material that improves environmental performance. In 2021, the Trust Protocol became a member of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC), an industry-wide non-profit organization that works to reduce environmental impacts along the global value chain. .

Maintenance: US Cotton Trust Protocol

Drapers speaks with Gary Adams, Chairman of the Trust Protocol, about how brands and retailers can respond to growing environmental pressure and the importance of sustainably sourced materials.

Gary Adams, Chairman of the Trust Protocol

What are the benefits of using Protocol Cotton fiber for fashion retailers?

In a time of ever tighter oversight and growing demand for transparency, our goal is to provide brands and retailers with the essential assurances they need to show that the cotton fiber element of their supply chain is more sustainable. , with less environmental and social risks.

The Trust Protocol provides brands and retailers with benefits in three key areas: first, continuous improvement is at the heart of American cotton; second, unmatched, measurable and verified data for brands and retailers; and the third being full transparency of the supply chain.

American cotton producers have worked hard to ensure that their cotton is one of the most durable available. The emphasis on innovation and technology has enabled the use of techniques such as precision agriculture, conservation tillage and cover crops to reduce environmental impact. Our producers take a “whole farm” approach, thinking about biodiversity and cotton growing in an inclusive and common way, for the benefit of flora, fauna and farmers.

What makes the Trust Protocol different from other accreditation programs?

We pride ourselves on what we are able to offer our members and believe we have a unique proposition. The Trusted Protocol maintains continuous improvement at the heart of cotton production in the United States, is the only program to deliver unmatched, measurable and verified data for brands and retailers, and is the first sustainable cotton fiber in the United States. world to provide full item-level supply chain transparency for all members.

The Trust Protocol is also a complement to existing sustainability programs. While other initiatives are global in scope or are relevant to a certain region, the Trust Protocol is designed from the ground up to accommodate the unique environment of cotton growing in the United States.

Why is it increasingly important for retailers and brands to focus on fiber from sustainable sources?

Brands and retailers understand that consumers are increasingly looking for sustainable products and demand more from their favorite labels. Last year, we worked with the Economist Intelligence Unit to produce a high-profile report on what leaders of brands and retailers of all sizes really thought about sustainability. We found that sustainability had become a priority for the majority of executives, with 60% of them saying it was their second most important strategic goal, losing only the customer experience.

Levi Strauss & Co works with the American Cotton Trust protocol

Additionally, earlier this year we surveyed this same demographic again, this time a year after the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. The results are positive: After 69% of brands and retailers said they believe the pandemic has underscored the importance of environmentally friendly products to consumers, an additional 63% said the pandemic has had an impact. positive impact on their proactive investment in sustainability.

Brands also recognize a real need to act now to be of service to the planet. The good news is that brands and retailers have already started cutting emissions, setting ambitious goals that they work towards and against which they measure themselves.

Why is it important that Protocol Cotton is one of Textile Exchange’s preferred fibers?

The Trusted Protocol was added to Textile Exchange’s Preferred Fibers and Materials List in April 2020. The Trusted Protocol is one of 36 fibers and materials that more than 170 participating brands and retailers can choose from under the Trust Protocol. Textile Exchange’s Material Change Index program.

It is a globally recognized initiative that provides a clear definition of a fiber that translates into better results in environmental and social sustainability. We certainly consider the cotton from the trust memorandum to meet this definition.

For brands and retailers, they need trust in their sourcing partners. They need assurance that the cotton they are buying meets a certain level of sustainability. Being one of Textile Exchange’s favorite fibers helps build confidence around the cotton we produce.

Dressed in data: how innovation drives sustainability

In partnership with the U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol, this in-depth report from Drapers examines how data, technology and other digital innovations are helping to advance sustainability in the fashion and textile industry, and helping brands and retailers. retailers to track their progress and meet their sustainability goals.

Click here to read the full report

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