Results are encouraging...

Improvements since the first ranking in 2016 are encouraging and suggest that leaders will continue to show the way, driving sustainability in the sector. Positive outcomes include:

  • More companies with policies and commitments;
  • More companies using more sustainable cotton;
  • Increased overall uptake of more sustainable cotton.

... but there’s still much to do

While significant positive progress is visible, there is still much to do:

  • Only around half of all assessed companies have a policy on cotton sustainability;
  • Only 19 companies have some kind of target for sourcing more sustainable cotton;
  • Company performance on uptake and traceability is considerably lower than on policy, even among leaders;
  • Uptake of more sustainable cotton remains relatively low with most of the heavy lifting done by a handful of leaders.
Better performing companies have policies on more sustainable cotton and sourcing targets;
Leaders take responsibility for sustainability across their whole cotton supply chain and actively support supply chain partners in making improvements;
Many companies refer to their membership of standards organisations or sustainability initiatives as a proxy for policy. Leaders go further, developing their own policies, acknowledging the issues, and clearly expressing their intent to improve performance on all of the cotton they use;
Relatively few companies have policies on pesticides, water, biodiversity, human rights, and recycling. For all companies, there is still work to be done.

Leaders perform better than the rest in all areas but the difference is most marked in the area of uptake. A few leaders have relatively high scores, followed by a few with successively lower scores, while most companies score nothing at all;
Companies with high levels of more sustainable cotton use also scored highly on policy and traceability. They are more likely to have published clear policies and provided insight into their supply chains.

  • Traceability is the area where company performance is weakest overall;
  • Few companies publish anything at all on their supply chains;
  • Transparency and accountability to stakeholders on volumes of cotton used are essential for a sustainable cotton sector but few companies report volumes of all cotton lint used;
  • Very little is published on countries of origin of cotton used in company products;
  • Leaders are more transparent this year than last year, but even they have work to do.

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