By  on August 12, 2014

The Cotton Leads program has attracted more than 200 partners across the global cotton textile supply chain since it was launched in October.

A joint program established by the U.S. and Australian cotton industries, Cotton Leads advocates and demonstrates responsible growing practices for cotton. Companies signing on to the program include Target Corp. and American & Efird in the U.S., Japan’s AEON TopValu, Hong Kong’s Fountain Set and Mexico’s Operadora LOB.

“The first phase of the Cotton Leads program was aimed at raising awareness of the significant environmental gains already achieved by cotton growers in Australia and the United States, and their commitment to continual improvement,” said Mark Messura, senior vice president of global supply chain marketing at Cotton Inc., a founding member of the program.

Messura noted the stringent national and local regulatory environment in both countries, combined with transparency of these practices and third-party verification to validate the claims.

“The robust national infrastructures of both countries have facilitated and documented these gains, but more importantly, they enable the countrywide implementation of future best practices,” added Messura.

On the topic of best practices, Adam Kay, chief executive officer of Cotton Australia, said, “The self-investment by growers into research and development is a key commonality in both countries, and one that demonstrates their commitment to continual improvement.”

In Australia, a new survey of the water-management practices of 40 irrigators from Central Queensland to southern New South Wales in the three cotton-growing seasons of 2006-07, 2008-09 and 2012-13 showed a dramatic improvement in water-use efficiency across the industry. The survey revealed a 40 percent increase in water-use efficiency over the past 10 years. It also noted that it covered both the low-water years from 2006 to 2008 and the high-production season of 2012-13.

In a new environmental initiative, Cotton Inc. said it has perfected a fluorine-free version of its Storm Cotton technology, a textile finish that adds durable water repellency to cotton outerwear, in a collaborative project with Archroma, a Swiss color and specialty chemicals company.

Over the past decade, Cotton Inc. has introduced a range of textile technologies that enhance the performance capabilities of cotton in the outdoor and athletic apparel categories. These include TransDry moisture-wicking technology, and the suite of Storm Cotton durable water-repellent finishes for cotton, denim and fleece. They have enabled cotton to be more competitive in apparel categories historically dominated by man-made fibers.

David Earley, senior director of global supply chain marketing at Cotton Inc., explained that performance finishes such as those that offer water and stain protection are essential to the outdoor apparel category, and have historically contained some level of fluorine chemistry. The potential negative side effects of fluorine and its toxicity have heightened concerns in recent years, causing a range of industries to reduce or eliminate it from their products.

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