The Sustainable Cotton Ranking 2020, completed in partnership between World Wildlife Fund, Solidaridad and Pesticide Action Network U.K., gives insight into how 77 of the largest cotton-using companies score on their policy, traceability and uptake of sustainable cotton.
It’s the fourth annual report, highlighting the widening market gap on sustainable cotton that is expected to increase production to 30 percent of the market in 2020. This is compared to only around 25 percent of the available sustainable cotton supply being actively sourced by brands and retailers over the last few years.
Looking to the top-ranking brands as inspiration, since September 2015, Ikea has responsibly sourced all of its cotton, with 85 percent of that being sourced as Better Cotton.
“We won’t stop there though. We are committed to creating positive change throughout the entire cotton industry and continue to collaborate with our partners to make this a reality,” said Rahul Ganju, sustainability manager textiles, Ikea of Sweden in an accompanying statement.
Adidas committed to sourcing 100 percent sustainable cotton by 2018, and Better Cotton ranks as one of its most commonly used sustainable materials.
H&M Group has been equally bold in its ambition that by 2030 all its materials should be either recycled or sourced in a more sustainable way, making sustainable cotton a clear priority. As previously reported by WWD, H&M Group is also exploring more “circular materials” as alternatives to cotton.
While the influence of top sustainable cotton users, like Adidas, Ikea and H&M, reveal what David Bloch, head of corporate partnerships at WWF International, called an “inspiring example to others in the industry,” the report calls on all brands to do their part in making the global cotton sector more sustainable.
Citing a lack of industry demand, according to data from surveyed farmers, 75 percent of what would be “more sustainable” cotton is effectively traded as “conventional cotton.”
Some sustainable cotton standards acknowledged in the report include “organic cotton,” “fair-trade cotton,” “cotton made in Africa” and “Better Cotton,” (part of the Better Cotton Initiative) but the standards are acknowledged as only “the first step on the road to credible improvement.”
Essentially, industry uptake and traceability remain relatively low, with even some of the “best” companies remaining vague when it comes to reporting on their cotton suppliers. And many, more than half of all assessed companies, lack any public targets for sourcing more sustainable cotton.
The organizations behind the Sustainable Cotton Ranking urge brands to act lest the gap further widens.
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