This week in London, thirteen of the world’s most renowned clothing and textile companies signed up to a sustainable cotton communiqué, through which they have pledged to use 100% sustainable cotton by 2025. The pledge was the result of a high level meeting attended by HRH The Prince of Wales and organised by The Prince’s International Sustainability Unit (ISU) in collaboration with Marks & Spencer and The Soil Association.
The thirteen companies, many of which are BCI RB Members, that have signed the sustainable cotton communiqué are: ASOS, EILEEN FISHER, Greenfibres, H&M, IKEA, Kering, Levi Strauss & Co., Lindex, M&S, Nike, Sainsbury’s, F&F at Tesco and Woolworths Holdings. Together these companies use in excess of 300,000 tonnes of cotton annually.
The meeting was attended by a number of high level representatives from the companies that have signed up to the communiqué, as well as senior representatives from non-governmental organisations and standards agencies, including The Soil Association, Fairtrade Foundation, The Better Cotton Initiative, Cotton Made in Africa and CottonConnect. Civil Society was represented by Textile Exchange, Cotton 2040 and The Pesticide Action Network. Alan McClay, BCI CEO, was in attendance at the meeting.
Over the past year the ISU has been working in collaboration with Marks and Spencer and The Soil Association to convene leading companies and various ‘standards’ organisations to discuss how to reduce the negative environmental and social impacts that are all too often associated with cotton production. There have been substantial gains made over the past few years in scaling the production of more sustainable forms of cotton, with production higher than ever before. However, companies are only actively sourcing less than a fifth of more sustainable material.
Companies that use cotton therefore have a significant role to play in correcting this disparity by building demand for more sustainable cotton. The companies that pledged their support today are at various stages on their journey to using sustainable cotton, with some just beginning and others already securing all of their cotton from sustainable sources. However, these companies recognise that sustainability across the cotton sector cannot be achieved by a few companies alone, and that collaboration across the sector is needed to bring about transformative change.
The communiqué defines sustainable sources as Organic, Fairtrade, Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), Cotton Made in Africa and recycled cotton certified to an independently verifiable standard such as the Global Recycled Standard (GRS) or the Recycled Claim Standard (RCS). In addition, Cotton Connect’s REEL programme and code provides a starting point for businesses aiming to for greater sustainability in their cotton supply chain.