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8th June 2016, Utrecht

Top brands failing on cotton sustainability according to new research

Cotton is grown in around 80 countries worldwide and is a key raw material for the textile industry, accounting for around 32% of all fibres used. The majority of international companies using most cotton globally are failing to deliver on cotton sustainability, according to new independent research published this week by Pesticide Action Network (PAN) UK, Solidaridad and WWF.

Just eight companies out of 37 made it out of the red zone in the ranking research conducted by Rank a Brand, one of Europe’s largest brand-comparison sites on sustainability and corporate social responsibility.

Only home furnishing giant IKEA, who top the ranking, score in the green zone with 12 out of a maximum of 19.5 points. C&A (9), H&M (9) and Adidas (7.75) follow in the yellow zone, while Nike (6.75), M&S (5.5), VF Corporation (3.25), and Kering (3) are in the orange zone. Another 29 companies fall in the red zone and appear to do little on cotton sustainability.

Cotton sustainability

“IKEA, C&A and H&M are showing how cotton sustainability is good for business but many top companies are failing to deliver,” said Richard Holland, Director, Market Transformation, WWF. “Sourcing more sustainable cotton has never been easier so there is no excuse for companies not to offer more responsible products to customers.”

“It’s clear that just a few leading companies are doing the heavy lifting on sourcing sustainable cotton,” commented Isabelle Roger, Global Cotton Programme Manager, Solidaridad. “For the cotton sector as a whole to become sustainable, all other major companies will need to get on board.”

Growing sustainable cotton market

While around 10-13% of global cotton supply can be classed as more sustainable, less than a fifth of this amount is actually being used as more sustainable cotton in products with the rest being sold as conventional due to lack of demand from top brands and companies.

“Lack of uptake of more sustainable cotton is a massive missed opportunity,” said Keith Tyrell, Director, PAN UK. “Conventional cotton production often suffers from serious social and environmental impacts such as excessive water and hazardous pesticide use. Growing the sustainable cotton market is our best chance of cleaning up cotton and protecting worker health.”

Scoring performance

Rank a Brand scored company performance across three areas: policy, sourcing and use, and traceability. Most points were available for sourcing and use with companies assessed according to volumes used from Better Cotton, Cotton made in Africa, Organic, and Fairtrade – the four standards judged to be sustainable for this research.

PAN UK, Solidaridad and WWF are calling on all companies using large volumes of cotton to set, report and deliver on time-bound targets for cotton sustainability – companies serious about sustainability should be sourcing 100% more sustainable cotton by 2020.

Further reading

Download the full Cotton Ranking report

www.pan-uk.org

www.solidaridadnetwork.org

wwf.panda.org

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