Better Cotton Brings Together Global Fashion Brands to Ensure Cotton Traceability

New Traceability Panel invests over £1million in supply chain innovations.

Better Cotton has convened a group of leading international retailers and brands to help enable the delivery of new traceability solutions and bring greater visibility to the cotton supply chain. These include names like Marks & Spencer(M&S), Zalando and BESTSELLER.

The panel has pulled together an initial £1m tranche of funding. It will work with suppliers, NGOs and independent experts in supply chain assurance to develop an approach that meets the pressing needs of industry today.

Traceability within the cotton supply chain will soon become a market “must” with legislators on both sides of the Atlantic moving to toughen rules. New rules presented this March by the European Commission aim to better protect consumers against false environmental claims and introduce a ban on greenwashing.

For example, sellers will not be allowed to put a sustainability label on their product if there is no certification or recognition by a public authority for it. It also prohibits sellers from making generic environmental claims such as “eco-friendly” or “green” if they cannot demonstrate environmental performance.

Many fashion retailers simply don’t know where the cotton in their clothes comes from. The reasons for not knowing are numerous, and in many cases, legitimate. This traceability panel is a major step towards addressing the reasons behind this inability to trackback to the source. We intend to address sourcing and intellectual property issues head on. Higher supply chain assurance comes at a cost –- as verifying the exact origins of a garment requires more checks and controls – so the investment of additional resources will be critical.

The Better Cotton Traceability Panel will address all aspects of the cotton supply chain, from farmers in the field through production to the consumer. Better Cotton has gathered input from over 1,500 organisations so far who have made it clear that traceability is business-critical across the whole industry but also that retailers and brands need to integrate sustainability and traceability into their standard business practices. Findings from this research highlighted that 84% indicated a business ‘need to know’ where the cotton in their products was grown. In fact, 4 in 5 suppliers surveyed sought the benefit of an enhanced traceability system. Currently only 15% of apparel companies claim to have full visibility of the raw materials that go into their products according to a recent study by KPMG.

Having worked in partnership with Better Cotton for over a decade, at M&S we have been at the forefront of sourcing more responsible cotton. We met our commitment of reaching 100% responsibly sourced cotton in our clothing in 2019 – but there is still work to be done to improve traceability. We’re proud to be a part of Better Cotton’s Traceability Panel which will help to further accelerate progress within the industry.

Specifically Better Cotton and the new panel will provide substantial investment to:

  • Further develop existing farm to gin tracing arrangements to underpin physical traceability
  • Build on its existing trading platform tracking movement of a quarter of the world’s cotton through 8000 organisations to make it possible. Fully trace any of the cotton that enters the system within a few years. 
  • Use different technology solutions and credibility arrangements to clearly distinguish country of origin initially and environmental and social practices by growers eventually.
  • Create new market mechanisms that bring value for farmers, such as rewarding them for carbon sequestration.
  • Focus on farmers – both big and small – providing training, ensuring proper working conditions, helping them access preferential financing and securing their ability to enter international value chains.

Fashion consumers are increasingly demanding to know the provenance of their purchases and at Zalando, we aim to offer this deeper level of transparency to our customers. We are all aware how complex this issue is within our industry and initiatives like the Better Cotton traceability panel will help to accelerate progress – with action to support sustainable business growth for all in the supply chain. This includes setting ambitious targets and ensuring these are actioned promptly.

Better Cotton and its partners have also trained over 2.5 million farmers in 25 countries, having raised €99 million since 2010 to fund capacity building and other field-level activities. This is projected to grow to just over €125 million by the 2021- 22 season.

Learn more about Better Cotton traceability journey.

Better Cotton Members can join our upcoming traceability webinar series, kicking off on 26 May. Register here.

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Better Cotton Launches New Chain of Custody Advisory Group

Last month, the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) launched its new Chain of Custody Advisory Group.

The purpose of the new Advisory Group is to provide advice on the development of the Better Cotton Chain of Custody – the key framework that connects demand with supply of Better Cotton and helps to incentivise cotton farmers to adopt more sustainable practices.

Consisting of BCI Members and non-members, the Advisory Group will ensure any new Chain of Custody developments are commercially relevant, feasible and attractive to BCI’s multi-stakeholder membership.

Chain of Custody Advisory Group Members

Retailers and Brands

  • Karen Perry | John Lewis & Partners
  • Ethan Barr | Target
  • Syed Rizwan Vajahat | IKEA
  • German Garcia | Inditex

Suppliers, Manufacturers and Traders

  • Philippe Saner | Paul Reinhart AG
  • Besim Ozek | Bossa Sanayi ve Ticaret Isletmeleri TAS
  • Fawzia Yasmeen | Pahartali Textile and Hosiery Mills

Producer Organisation

  • Todd Straley | Quarterway Cotton Growers

Civil Society

  • Melissa Ho & Anis Ragland | WWF

Non-members

  • Aminah Ang | RSPO
  • Chuck Rogers | Bureau Veritas Consumer Product Services

Though it is not a decision-making body, the group will provide strategic advice to the BCI Membership and Supply Chain Team and allow for more focused discussions on the Better Cotton Chain of Custody.

It is such a diverse group, and members have a wide range of expertise and experience. We are excited to work together to help shape the future of the Better Cotton Chain of Custody.” – Joyce Lam, Supply Chain Integrity Manager, BCI.

Find out more about the Better Cotton Chain of Custody.

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Better Cotton Publishes Revised Chain of Custody Guidelines

The Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) has launched a revised version of the Better Cotton Chain of Custody Guidelines.

Chain of Custody Guidelines V1.4

The Better Cotton Chain of Custody (CoC) is the key framework that connects demand with supply of Better Cotton and helps to incentivise cotton farmers to adopt more sustainable practices. The CoC Guidelines incorporate two different chain of custody models: product segregation between the farm and gin and mass-balance after the gin level.

The latest CoC Guideline revisions focused predominately on removing outdated CoC requirements, clarifying and strengthening existing requirements, addressing any ambiguous language and restructuring the layout of the document. The updated CoC Guidelines V1.4 now also clearly define and distinguish between mandatory requirements and best practice guidance.

Importantly, the basic Chain of Custody requirements have not changed – BCI still requires a product segregation model in place between farm and gin level (i.e. Better Cotton must be kept segregated from conventional cotton) and a mass-balance chain of custody model is applicable after gin level. More information on these models and requirements for different supply chain organisations can be found in the the CoC Guidelines.

The revised guidelines replace the previous V1.3 and will be effective as of 1 August 2020, which is the beginning of the ICAC international cotton season.For more information, please read the FAQ and summary of the key changes documents.

Find out more about the Better Cotton Chain of Custody on the BCI website.

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Better Cotton Creates New Chain of Custody Advisory Group: Apply Now

 
As BCI develops its 2030 strategy and targets for the next decade, in addition to deepening BCI’s impact at field level, the focus remains on scaling the sustainable production and sourcing of Better Cotton – the cotton grown by licensed BCI Farmers in line with the Better Cotton Principles and Criteria.

Under this target area, BCI will consider the existing Better Cotton Chain of Custody (CoC), which constitutes the key framework that connects supply with demand of Better Cotton and helps to incentivise cotton farmers to adopt more sustainable practices.

The Better Cotton CoC currently incorporates two different chain of custody models: product segregation at the beginning of the supply chain (farm to gin) and mass-balance after the gin stage*. Going forward, BCI will consider whether it can provide a wider range ofchain of custodyoptions for all Better Cotton supply chain players, both BCI Members and non-members.

The purpose of BCI’s new member-based Chain of Custody Advisory Group is to provide advice on the development of the Better Cotton CoC, including projects and activities such asgin monitoring visits and supply chain audits in key Better Cotton producing countries.

Consisting of BCI Members and non-members, the Advisory Group will ensure any new chain of custody developments are commercially relevant, feasible and attractive to BCI’s multi-stakeholder membership. Though it is not a decision-making body for the organisation, the group will provide strategic advice and allow for more focused discussions on the Better Cotton CoC.

BCI would like to invite interested stakeholders to join the new Chain of Custody Advisory Group to help shape the future of BCI.

Download the application form.

You can find further background information, details on the Advisory Group scope of work, and the Terms of Reference here.

The deadline to apply for the Chain of Custody Advisory Group is Friday 8 May 2020.

Please contact BCI Supply Chain Integrity Manager Joyce Lam at [email protected] if you would like to participate, or if you require further information.

*In the segregation method, the purpose is to ensure that Better Cotton is not mixed or substituted with conventional cotton between the farm and gin. In the mass balance approach, the objective is to ensure that the quantity of Better Cotton purchased does not exceed the quantity of Better Cotton sold. Find out more about the Better Cotton Chain of Custody here.

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Better Cotton Issues Revised Chain of Custody Guidelines

BCI released a revised version of the Better Cotton Chain of Custody Guidelines (v1.3) on 1 May 2018. This document replaces the previous v1.2 and will become effective by 1 August 2018. The revision incorporated mostly minor changes, such as removing outdated content, clarifying existing requirements, and adding new guidance sections. The updated version also includes more information on supply chain monitoring and penalties for non-compliance.

The revised CoC Guidelines incorporate the new name for the Better Cotton Tracer – now referred to as the Better Cotton Platform, or BCP. The CoC Guidelines also clarify maximum timelines for companies to enter transactions into the BCP and will expand mandatory use of the BCP to all companies buying and selling Better Cotton products by 2020. In addition, responsibilities for gins and Implementing Partners have been clarified with respect to control of Better Cotton between the farm and gin level. For an overview of all revisions, please refer to the Summary of Changes document.

Importantly, the basic Chain of Custody requirements have not changed – BCI still requires a product segregation model in place between farm and gin level (i.e. Better Cotton must be kept segregated from conventional cotton) and a mass-balance chain of custody model is applicable after gin level. More information on these models and requirements for different supply chain organisations can be found in the Chain of Custody Guidelines v1.3.

The revision was carried out in order to improve clarity for supply chain organisations buying and selling Better Cotton products, to help ensure more consistent implementation of the Better Cotton Chain of Custody Guidelines globally, and to ensure requirements were up to date so that compliance can be verified through BCI monitoring and third-party audits.

The revised Chain of Custody Guidelines, along with a summary of key changes, can be found here.

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