Progress is underway...

Improvements since the 2017 ranking are encouraging and suggest more companies are taking their responsibility to drive sustainability in the sector. Positive outcomes include:

  • 43 companies obtained more points than in 2017 including 24 companies moving up from one performance category to the next;
  • Biggest movers in terms of improvement (with an increase of more than 20 points since 2017) are: Bestseller A/S, Decathlon Group, Adidas AG, Benetton Group S.r.l., Levi Strauss & Co., The Gap, Inc., Esprit Holdings Ltd, Lojas Renner, Columbia Sportswear Company, Otto Group, Next PLC, and H&M Group;
  • The increasing number of companies leading the way (+6) and well on their way (+5);
  • Most companies with some commitment to more sustainable cotton are progressing;
  • Progress is across the board on policy, uptake and traceability;
  • More companies using more sustainable cotton;
  • Increased overall uptake of more sustainable cotton.

Greatest improvement between 2017 and 2020

companies journey


All other companies not listed in this graph did not make any progress
between 2017 - 2020. These were:

  •, Inc.
  • Calzedonia SpA*
  • Camaieu S.A. *
  • Carter's, Inc.*
  • Casas Pernambucanas*
  • Express, Inc. *
  • Foot Locker Retail, Inc.*
  • G-III Apparel Group*
  • Giordano International Limited*
  • Giorgio Armani S.P.A.*
  • Grupo Guararapes*
  • Heilan Group Co. Ltd*
  • Kiabi Europe SAS*
  • Max Mara Fashion Group*
  • Metersbonwe Group*
  • New Yorker Group*
  • Nordstrom, Inc.*
  • OTB Group*
  • Samsung C&T Fashion Group*
  • Shanghai La Chapelle Fashion Co*
  • Tendam*
  • Trendy International Group*
  • Youngor Group*
  • Zhejiang Semir Garment Co., Ltd.*
  • TJX Companies, Inc.*
  • Berkshire Hathaway Inc.*
  • Forever21, Inc.*
  • Hanesbrands Inc.*
  • VF Corporation
  • Hudson's Bay Company*

... but there’s still much to do

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

  • Progress has been mostly driven by companies already engaged to some extent in 2017, while companies with low scores in 2017 mostly remain inactive as exemplified by the 24 companies that obtained 0 points in 2017 and again in 2020;
  • A third of all assessed companies (27) have no policy on cotton sustainability;
  • Over half of all assessed companies (43) have no public target for sourcing more sustainable cotton;
  • Company performance on uptake and traceability is still considerably lower than on policy;
  • Uptake of more sustainable cotton remains relatively low with most of the heavy lifting done by a growing number of leaders.
policy Analysis
Better performing companies have policies on more sustainable cotton and sourcing targets, which highlights the importance of strong policy to help drive strong performance.
The average score is 6.77 out of 20 points available (34%). This highlights that relatively few companies have policies on pesticides, water, biodiversity, human rights, and recycling. Despite the fact that this was the best scoring category, for all companies, there is still work to be done.
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, while integrating reference to their membership and initiative engagements.
Leaders take responsibility for sustainability across their whole cotton supply chain and actively support supply chain partners in making improvements.

uptake analysis
Uptake is the key differentiator between high performing companies and those lagging behind. Leaders perform better than the rest in all areas but the difference is most marked in the area of uptake.
Only 11 leaders have sourced over 50% and up to 100% of their cotton as sustainable. They are followed by 14 companies who have sourced between 1 and 50% of their cotton as sustainable. While most companies (48 out of 77) score nothing at all.
Leading companies report greater uptake than in 2017: they continued to improve. Most of the assessed companies that have a public sourcing target also report volumes and percentages of sourced sustainable cotton, confirming that making a public commitment drives efforts to achieve them.
The average score is low with 8.53 out of 55 points available (16%). The fact that, on average, only 16% of the points were claimed in this category illustrates that there is significant room for improvement in uptake for most companies, especially those 48 companies not scoring any points.

Traceability analysis
Traceability is the area where company performance is weakest overall. The average score is 2.86 out of 25 points available (11%). While a few examples are beginning to emerge of transparency in parts of supply chains (e.g. C&A, H&M Group, Nike, Patagonia), few companies publish anything on their supply chains, especially when it comes to cotton suppliers.
Transparency and accountability to stakeholders on volumes of cotton used are essential for a sustainable cotton sector but few, although an increasing number of companies report volumes of all cotton lint used.
Very little is published on countries of origin of cotton used in company products. Cotton supplier transparency represents an area of opportunity in terms of industry collective action.

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