The ranking assessment focuses on consumer-facing companies with significant cotton use (over 10,000 metric tonnes of cotton lint per year). Consumer-facing companies using cotton include apparel brands, supermarket chains, and furniture and department stores. Due to their prominence in their respective markets, their role in encouraging cotton farmers to grow more sustainable cotton, and requiring supply chain actors to source and use it in their products, is central. The assessment focuses on companies rather than the individual brands they own.
While sustainability practices can vary significantly between different brands, entire companies need to change sourcing practices across all their brands to transform cotton cultivation. We selected companies according to sector indices and benchmarks, as well as lists of top companies in the fashion and garment sector and their respective markets. Special attention was given to the inclusion of companies from key emerging markets in India, Brazil, South Africa and China because mainstreaming more sustainable cotton will require most of the largest companies in every major consumer market to commit to its sourcing.
77 COMPANIES ARE ASSESSED:
A questionnaire covering three areas – policy, actual uptake and traceability – formed the backbone of the company assessment.
Sustainability policies provide a company with a vital foundation and direction for business operations. Publishing a policy is often the first step on the journey to more sustainable cotton sourcing.
Irrespective of the quality of a sustainability policy, only its implementation can deliver change. To reflect this, the assessment allocated 55% of total available points to scoring uptake of more sustainable cotton, both as a percentage of total volume of cotton used and, to recognise the particular effort of companies using very large volumes of more sustainable cotton, as an absolute figure.
Companies must pay attention to the origin of their cotton, who their suppliers are, and how much cotton passes through their supply chain. Such information helps a company and its suppliers build long-lasting relationships that can accelerate transformation of the cotton market towards sustainability. Traceability is also an essential internal decision-making tool for setting and achieving a more sustainable cotton strategy.
Underpinning this assessment is the expectation that companies report publicly on policy, uptake and traceability. Transparency through public reporting is vital for demonstrating sustainability leadership and enabling accountability to stakeholders. Therefore we assessed companies only on the basis of publicly available information. The one exception was question 9 on volumes of more sustainable cotton used by companies for which we accepted data shared in confidence as this information is often considered to be commercially sensitive.
It is therefore worth noting that in some cases, low scores may reflect a true lack of action on the part of companies while, in other cases, the lack of transparency/public disclosure on efforts taken by a company may also result in a low score.
Between July and October 2019, consultancy Aidenvironment carried out the company consultation and assessment process by:
Due to the timing of the research, the ranking is based mostly on information published by companies about their performance in 2018, unless otherwise mentioned in the individual company page.