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This post was updated on 22 October 2021.

There is a growing demand for more traceable Better Cotton, as stakeholders worldwide seek more clarity over the social and environmental challenges associated with the cotton supply chain, and policymakers require businesses to demonstrate greater transparency. Better Cotton is committed to working with all our key stakeholders to deliver physical traceability for Better Cotton. And with significant convening power and a network spanning actors across the supply chain, we believe we are well placed to help drive this transformation. In this way, we aim to catalyse progress across the sector.

Why is traceability important?

Understanding the route Better Cotton takes from field to market enables a clearer view of risks and where to prioritise efforts for continuous improvement. It will build on our existing efforts to build farmers’ capacity to adopt more sustainable practices and promote decent work and will facilitate the inclusion of producers in increasingly regulated international value chains, helping to improve lives and safeguard livelihoods in cotton farming communities. The sourcing landscape is changing, and we want to make sure these changes are good for those who produce and source Better Cotton.

What have we achieved so far?

We are currently exploring the best possible options to achieve physically traceable Better Cotton in close consultation with our membership to ensure we set course on a pathway that meets stakeholder needs and expectations. We have created a panel of experts from among our Retailer and Brand Members to help us build momentum and determine the best way to engage with all our stakeholders across the Better Cotton value chain. We have also run workshops and surveys with our Supplier and Manufacturer Members, with input from over 1,500 organisations to date. The message from our membership is clear – traceability is becoming business critical, and Better Cotton has a key role to play in delivering it for the industry

What are our next steps?

Starting in 2022, we will start testing various traceability solutions and partner with new and existing stakeholders to forge a collective pathway to systemic change. To ensure a viable, fit-for-purpose solution, we need to make sure it works for Better Cotton Farmers and for every actor in the cotton supply chain. We will also revise our requirements for those handling Better Cotton in the supply chain and introduce innovative integrity checks that go beyond traditional auditing practices. This will provide all stakeholders the confidence to source Better Cotton and assure them of the positive impact their sourcing practices have on the ground.

Traceability is a huge investment for Better Cotton and everyone involved across the supply chain. Funding is needed to develop robust, workable systems and to help all the relevant actors invest in change. This is particularly important for smaller actors, like smallholder farmers and small-scale ginners, who may not have access to the finance and resources to make the changes that are needed. While traceability comes with a cost, it also represents an opportunity to create new market mechanisms that bring value for Better Cotton Farmers, such as rewarding them for carbon sequestration.

Once we have procured a digital solution in 2023, we will begin onboarding suppliers from different geographies into our network. We’ll gradually build engagement with our global Better Cotton community to make it possible for all suppliers to engage in the system, making any necessary adjustments along the way as we further refine our approach. We anticipate some regions will need greater support, and we will focus on capacity building and training with these suppliers to ensure our system is inclusive. Once the solution is established, we will keep monitoring and evaluating its effectiveness, to ensure service quality and continuous improvement.

How can I get involved?

This is your opportunity to help forge a solution for fully traceable Better Cotton and shape a better future for cotton farming communities. Contact us at [email protected] for more information on how you can get involved.

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