for companies

All companies that use large volumes of cotton in their products have a key role to play in encouraging the further expansion of the sustainable cotton market.

It is high time for those 38 companies that have not yet started their own journey towards sustainable cotton to take their responsibility for this raw material that is key to their business. Free riding is not an option anymore: moving the cotton sector towards sustainability will take commitment from all major cotton users. As demonstrated by the few companies that have made significant progress in recent years, sourcing sustainable cotton is an achievable goal in a relatively short time, provided the will is here.

Companies starting the journey or well on their way should put their policies in practice as soon as possible with a focus on sourcing sustainable cotton. Companies leading the way still need to continue working towards or maintain their 100% sustainable cotton sourcing.

To fulfil their role as major cotton users, all companies should:

  • Adopt policies on overall cotton sustainability, and specifically on the key topics of Highly Hazardous Pesticides, water, biodiversity, labour conditions, and recycling;
  • Set public targets for more sustainable cotton sourcing by a certain date not later than 2030, including the percentage of Better Cotton, organic, Fairtrade, CmiA and recycled cotton;
  • Start or continue sourcing more sustainable cotton;
  • Report transparently each year on policies, strategies and targets, as well as performance and progress.

In support of the above, companies should also:

  • Map cotton supply chains down to at least the country of cultivation;
  • Calculate the volume of cotton used by the business annually and make it public;
  • Develop a company-wide plan for applying policies and meeting sourcing targets, involving all relevant departments;
  • Join, and actively participate in, organisations such as BCI and/or Textile Exchange;
  • Work collectively, as a sector, to improve learning around policies and uptake processes, as well as cotton supplier transparency;
  • Seek advice from standards organisations, NGOs and peers in their sector;
  • Directly support and incentivize cotton suppliers by providing resources such as educational materials/training or financial incentives.

For sustainability initiatives

Sustainable Cotton Organisations and Initiatives should also play a role in encouraging demand and uptake of more sustainable cotton by publishing information on uptake by their members / partners. Demonstrating positive impacts will also be key to the continuation and increase of demand and trust in sustainable cotton.

For the cotton sector

As scrutiny on the impact of Sustainable Cotton Standards implementation is rightfully increasing, and new challenges arise in cotton producing countries, all stakeholders in the sector, including the publishing organisations, need to keep improving their understanding of the complexities at hand and updating their definition of what constitutes sustainable cotton. A common framework for measuring and reporting sustainability would be a great achievement for example following the framework set forth by the FAO / ICAC.

Additional resources

A number of organisations and programmes exist to support companies in their efforts on sustainable cotton:

To facilitate learning across the sector, we are pleased to share interviews with representatives of companies that are leading the way.

We invite other companies wishing to share their experience and learning to contact PAN UK, Solidaridad or WWF.

Read about their experiences here:

Marks & Spencer

Understanding sustainable
cotton options

read the interview


Create internal alignment and
know your supply chain

read the interview
back to top