Global coalition aims to make sustainable cotton the norm

Kelsi Farrington

International brands and retailers have formed a coalition to try to make sustainably sourced cotton the ‘mainstream choice’

Leading international brands and retailers are among those who have formed an international coalition to make sustainably produced cotton ‘the norm’. It is being led by sustainability non-profit organisation Forum for the Future, and supported by the C&A Foundation – an initiative from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

Named Cotton 2040, the collaboration is a response to what organisers call ‘a rising demand for sustainably sourced cotton’. One of its first aims is to boost production from 13 per cent of all cotton production to beyond 30 per cent from 2020. The coalition also wants to scale up cotton recycling; create a forum to support smallholder cotton farmers; and improve transparency about cotton sourcing.

Creating material change – where cotton farms are safe, and drinking water and rivers are free from toxic pesticides – are not just basic needs, I believe they are a basic human right

Among those involved are retailers Marks & Spencer and US discount chain Target; industry standards the Better Cotton Initiative and Cotton Made in Africa); the Fairtrade Foundation; the London College of Fashion; and Textile Exchange, a body that monitors organic standards in cotton production.

“Past debate around sustainable cotton standards and industry initiatives has at times been polarising, but we know to make effective progress we need to work together,” said Sally Uren, CEO of Forum for the Future. “Collaborative action is essential in order to address complex issues that no one entity can tackle alone.”

Collaborative action is essential in order to address complex issues that no one entity can tackle alone

The coalition is currently testing tools to improve access to, and encourage the sourcing of, sustainable cotton. These are expected to be shared with industry bodies in October. They include: a sustainable cotton sourcing guide for companies wanting to begin or increase their sourcing of sustainable cotton; a business case for sourcing more sustainable cotton; and lessons and insights from ‘pioneers’ in this kind of sourcing.

“Creating material change – where cotton farms are a safe place to live, and drinking water and rivers are free from toxic pesticides – are not just basic needs, I believe they are a basic human right,” said La Rhea Pepper, managing director of Textile Exchange. “United in action is where we can leverage our collective strengths to drive transformation of the cotton industry.”


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Image: Mike Carberry/Cotton Australia

  • Zombi Bikini

    Super! Conventional cotton uses massive amounts of pesticides.

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