Pioneers of Progress
To meet the challenge of creating a sustainable textile industry, Cotton Incorporated often partners with other organizations. These partnerships mark an opportunity to collaborate on research, as well as to share the company’s expertise on cotton and sustainability methodologies. Some of these organizations include:
- The Sustainability Consortium is an independent group of businesses, universities and nongovernmental organizations working to develop science-based tools to measure the sustainability of consumer products.
- The Sustainable Apparel Coalition is an industry-wide group of more than 100 leading apparel and footwear brands, retailers, suppliers, nonprofits and nongovernmental organizations working to reduce the environmental and social impacts of apparel and footwear products around the world.
- The Better Cotton Initiative works to promote measurable and continuing improvements for the environment, farming communities and economies of cotton-producing areas. The initiative aims to transform cotton production worldwide by developing Better Cotton as a sustainable mainstream commodity.
- Field to Market: The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture is an independent organization working to foster continual environmental improvements in U.S. row crop agriculture while maintaining productivity and farmers’ economic well-being.
- Cotton LEADS™: Building upon years of research and outreach that have contributed to the environmental gains of U.S. cotton growers, Cotton Incorporated joined National Cotton Council, Cotton Council International and the Australian cotton industry to launch the Cotton LEADS™ program in 2013. The goal of the Cotton LEADS™ program is to elevate awareness of the responsible and transparent growing practices employed by U.S. and Australian growers to global brands, retailers, and manufacturers. The international alliance exemplifies Cotton Incorporated’s historic role as a catalyst for environmental milestones within the U.S cotton industry, and solidifies the company’s ongoing commitment to fostering positive change for the worldwide cotton industry.
Since Cotton Incorporated’s formation, the cotton industry has made significant strides in sustainability. One of the company’s landmark efforts was its support in conducting the comprehensive Life Cycle Inventory & Life Cycle Assessment (LCI and LCA) of Cotton Fiber & Fabric.
Prior to the LCA, the industry did not have a cradle-to-grave measurement of the potential environmental impact of cotton fiber production, textile manufacturing or consumer use. Any information that was available was often obsolete or based on supposition.
So in 2009, Cotton Incorporated, with support from the Cotton Foundation, the National Cotton Council, Cotton Council International, and PE International, began the process of undertaking a study that would enable businesses to make better sourcing decisions. The key was to establish current and accurate benchmarks of potential environmental impacts across the global cotton supply chain, to a degree that no other fiber had previously completed.
The LCI collected detailed data regarding cotton fiber production, the textile manufacturing process, transportation, garment creation, consumer use and, finally, end of life. The cotton-centric LCA, which does not compare itself to other fibers, helped identify areas for improvement and will serve as a benchmark to measure progress moving forward.
The LCA project is global in scope, with averages based on information available for major cotton-growing regions, such as the United States, China and India.
At the completion of the project, Cotton Incorporated shared the peer-reviewed data with the sustainability community to help decision makers throughout the apparel industry achieve their sustainability goals.