Chain of Custody Traceability

By Alan McClay, CEO of Better Cotton 

Today is a significant day for Better Cotton, as we officially launch our traceability solution. Our solution enables our Members to source Better Cotton from a specific country with confidence by tracing it to the country level. Against the backdrop of growing demand from consumers and legislators for transparency around the origin of raw materials, this is an increasingly important priority for retailers and brands.

Cotton supply chains are particularly complex. The geographical journey of the cotton in a t-shirt can span three continents before it reaches the shop floor, often changing hands seven times or more, with agents, intermediaries and traders operating at every stage. And there’s no one clear path – cotton bales from different countries can be spun into the same yarn and sent to multiple different mills to be woven into fabric.

This makes it challenging to trace the cotton in any given product back to its source, hampering supply chain transparency. Our solution aims to make this transparency a reality. It will drive supply chain visibility in the cotton sector and give our Members the ability to incorporate these new insights into their sourcing activities.  

By keeping physical Better Cotton separate from other types of cotton in its journey from farm to gin, and monitoring transaction data through the Better Cotton Platform, we are now able to trace Better Cotton moving along the value chain. We can currently track it from the brand or retailer back to its country of origin, and we have ambitions to go further.

Photo Credit: Better Cotton/Eugénie Bacher. Harran, Turkey, 2022. Cotton going through a ginning machine, Mehmet Kızılkaya Tekstil.

With the market demanding more and more information from Better Cotton Farmers, making sure that they can continue to access these markets and generate sustainable livelihoods from their cotton is a priority for us. At the same time, traceability will also enable us to better direct investment to the field level to support farmers in driving sustainability improvements and increasing their yields.

Similarly, as stakeholders worldwide seek more clarity over the social and environmental challenges associated with textile supply chains, traceability allows retailers and brands to justify and explain where their investments are going, and what kind of result they are contributing to.

We see this as an extraordinary opportunity for us to channel information. By funnelling data on farmers’ results and impact in the field to retailers and brands through the chain of traceability, we can in turn also enable the investment and impact back to the farmers in the other direction, rewarding farmers who are driving sustainability in the field. Impact, at the end of the day, is value. Going forward, this will form the foundation of our vision of a Better Cotton ‘Impact Marketplace’ to improve farmer livelihoods and accelerate sustainability progress, while making verified outcome data and claims more accessible.

I’d like to thank everyone involved in making Better Cotton traceability a reality, from the Retailer & Brand Traceability Panel which invested in and advised on the creation of the solution, to all of the organisations involved in the pilot projects which tested new technologies and chain of custody models in Mozambique, Turkey, Uzbekistan and India, to all of our team who have worked so hard on this over the past few years.

I’m excited about this new chapter for the organisation, as we drive towards our goal of deepening our impact on cotton farming and communities, and I can’t wait to hear from our Members as they start sourcing Traceable Better Cotton. If you’d like to find out more about our unique traceability solution, head to this link.

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