Leading brands improve performance on sustainable cotton but many still fall short
Used in hundreds of everyday items, cotton is a vital cash crop for around 100 million households in 80 countries. However, conventional production of cotton is characterised by environmental, social and economic challenges such as excessive water and pesticide use, child labour and farmer debt.
While cotton produced through sustainable practices is expected to make up 15% of global supply for the 2016/17 season and 20% in 2017/18, up from 12% in 2015/16, only just over a fifth (21%) of this is actually sourced by companies as sustainable. The rest is sold as conventional cotton with brands and retailers citing low consumer demand, complexity of supply chains and additional cost as blocks to sourcing.