Cotton 2040 Project Wants to Make Sustainable Cotton a Mainstream Option for Sourcing

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Target and Marks and Spencer have signed on to a new initiative that’s working to make sustainable cotton the mainstream choice when sourcing the fiber.

On Wednesday, sustainability nonprofit Forum for the Future said the cross-industry initiative, called Cotton 2040, will use collaborative action to fuel change for cotton sourcing.

“There are excellent initiatives out there that aim to build better resilience for the sector, navigate it through an uncertain future and ensure that it continues to thrive within our planet’s limitations,” Forum for the Future said on its site. “However, given the sheer scale and complexity of the challenge, existing efforts aren’t making it happen at the speed and scale that we need.”

Apart from Target and M&S, Better Cotton Initiative, Cotton Made in Africa, organic standards represented by Textile Exchange and the Fair Trade foundation are among those that have joined the global coalition.

“Shaping the nature of the demand for sustainable cotton is critical to transforming the system,” Forum for the Future explains on its Cotton 2040 landing page. “This workstream is working on enabling an increased demand for sustainable cotton within the fashion and apparel industry, by highlighting the benefits of choosing sustainable cotton and providing resources and guidance on sourcing it.”

The initiative has four key goals: build demand for more sustainable cotton, scale up cotton recycling and circularity, build greater visibility and transparency throughout the cotton value chain, and create a forum to build resilience among smallholder cotton farmers.

How do they plan to do all of that?

First, to increase the uptake of sustainable cotton and drive production from 13 percent to more than 30 percent by 2020, Cotton 2040 will highlight the benefits of choosing sustainable cotton. Tools to do so will include a sustainable cotton sourcing guide that will help companies develop strategies across different standards, types of cotton or sourcing regions; a clear business case for sourcing more sustainable cotton; and lessons and insights from those who have taken pioneering roles in sustainable cotton sourcing.

“These tools, currently in development, will be tested and piloted by coalition members, then launched and shared with the wider textile industry in October 2017,” Forum for the Future said.

Beyond building demand, Cotton 2040 want to make sure the industry understands well how recapturing and reusing cotton can transform the sector. That area of focus for the initiative will include developing chemical textile-to-textile recycling to help drive closed loop processes.

When it comes to traceability, it’s been a problem all over supply chains, but in cotton in particular. If brands and retailers are going to use more sustainable cotton, they’re going to want to be sure what they’re getting is actually sustainable cotton. To help in this area, the initiative will work on establishing a common traceability interface.

Not forgetting that the cotton industry’s viability in the long run will depend on the success of the farmers that supply it, Cotton 2040 will create a cross-industry forum designed to help farmers remain resilient in the changing landscape.


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