Our 2020 goal is to ensure that all of our cotton is more sustainable — either sourced as certified organic cotton (Organic Cotton Standard, OCS, or Global Organic Textile Standard, GOTS), Better Cotton, recycled cotton, or transitional cotton (transitional cotton is produced by farmers during the time of conversion to organic certification, usually 3 years). As we near our goal, we realise that achieving the last several percent to 100% more sustainable cotton may be challenging.
Over the last year as we reached 94% more sustainable cotton, we have encountered challenges that could affect our ability to reach our final goal of 100% more sustainable cotton. The challenges we are working to overcome in 2020 include:
Cotton is used by nearly everyone, every day, and supports 250 million people’s livelihoods [SOURCE: BCI]. Cotton also makes up 57% of the materials we use in our clothing, so it’s where we can have the biggest impact with the right interventions.
Conventional cotton farming and production processes have a much bigger impact than more sustainable cotton. This is why we follow strict policies to ensure the integrity of our more sustainable cotton fibre from farm to store, and commit to sourcing only more sustainable cotton by 2020:
Cotton is a shrub that is native to tropical and subtropical regions all over the world, including the Americas, Africa, Egypt, and India. Currently, 90% of the certified organic cotton used in our garments comes from India, where small holder farmers grow cotton and other staple crops using organic farming practices. In recent years, we have worked with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in China to cultivate new sources of transitional cotton in the Binzhou region in Northern Shandong Province.
Continue working towards our 2020 goal for 100% of our cotton to be more sustainable.
Increase Better Cotton uptake in all our retail markets.
Progress towards our 2020 goal
This year we reached 94% more sustainable cotton, of which 34% was certified organic cotton and 60% was Better Cotton. Our one-year increase from 71% in 2018 is due to the following actions:
• Better reconciliation processes for Better Cotton:
• Training of our suppliers in the BCI process: We have invested time in educating our suppliers in how BCI and the Better Cotton Traceability System work.
• Better connection with organic farm groups in Pakistan: We have developed relationships with farmers and farm groups to secure organic cotton.
• Exploration of new organic sources: We have identified additional countries where organic cotton production is increasing
*From 2012 to 2016, this included REEL cotton
Signing the Prince of Wales Cotton Communiqué
In 2017, we joined the Prince of Wales Cotton Communiqué, the first cross-standard initiative for more sustainable cotton. The communiqué, set up by the Prince of Wales International Sustainability Unit in partnership with Marks & Spencer and the Soil Association, asks brands and retailers to procure more sustainable cotton and to pledge to source 100% sustainable cotton by 2025.
Our own goal is to be sourcing 100% more sustainable cotton by 2020 and, as the world’s top buyer of certified organic cotton and third top buyer of more sustainable cotton, we have the opportunity to share our learnings with our industry and to encourage collaboration between sustainable cotton standards. To this end, we have contributed to the CottonUp guide — supported by Laudes Foundation — by publishing a case study on our journey towards more sustainable cotton. The interactive CottonUp guide addresses three major topics related to sustainable cotton: why it’s important, what you need to know and do, and how to get started.
Tackling climate change
Organic cotton reduces the global warming potential of cotton production by 46% [SOURCE: Textile Exchange] and is therefore a key component of our climate change strategy and the development of our science-based targets.
Supporting cotton workers in our supply chain
Buying organic cotton has a direct positive impact on the health and safety of people in farming communities who are no longer exposed to hazardous chemicals. We also have a history of taking concrete steps to support cotton workers when required. More than 10 years ago in 2007, we signed the Cotton Pledge against forced labour, committing to end the practice of forced labour in the cotton sector in Uzbekistan.
Likewise, C&A does not buy any apparel from manufacturers based in China's Xinjiang province and we have not contracted any fabric or yarn mill located in this region either. We are working together with a number of major brands to better understand the current situation in the Xinjiang Region and to define the actions that need to be taken to ensure an effective due-diligence process in particular with regards to Chinese cotton production.
We do not tolerate any kind of forced, bonded or prison labour, or any kind of unauthorised subcontracting in our supply chain. This is clearly laid out and communicated through our Supplier Code of Conduct and checked using regular audits by our Sustainable Supply Chain team. All of our suppliers are required to sign and comply with our Code of Conduct as part of our contractual relationship and purchasing agreements.
Making more sustainable cotton the norm
Since our journey to more sustainable cotton started more than 10 years ago, it has been a cross-functional effort, embedded in our day-to-day activities. Driven by targets, owned by the business, and reported on at the highest level, more sustainable cotton is a central commitment for C&A. Our efforts reach beyond our operations: we seek to improve cotton agriculture, the lives of farmers, and the environment. We are doing this by increasing global demand for organic cotton and Better Cotton, as well as building capacity from the ground up – from the grower to the garment maker – across our supplier network.
We believe in creating more sustainable cotton products for our customers without passing on any additional cost or making the choice difficult for them.