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The Future of Sustainability is Rooted in Quantifiable Goals

Sustainability action has yet to reach its peak—and for good reason. It’s no longer about checking the box on responsible practices; it’s about accountability and quantifying success.

The U.S. cotton industry has made great gains in sustainability over the past 35 years and has reported significant declines in land use and soil loss as well as improvements in water efficiency, energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. Our farmers have one of the highest rates of adoption in the world for precision agriculture, which means they use modern technologies to manage variations of the soil, nutrient requirements, plant stresses and to optimize inputs. They operate under the most voluminous, stringent and enforceable regulations in the world.

This means our farmers can micromanage their land down to the square foot. It also sets in motion a chain of sustainability that sets measurable goals higher and raises the bar for all textile industries to further reduce our environmental footprint.

The United States is currently the only country that has set quantifiable goals for sustainability. At COTTON USA, our objective is to be the supplier of choice for mills, manufacturers, brands and retailers who are committed to only buy cotton that is produced with sustainable and responsible environmental, safety and labor practices.

In February 2017, the entire U.S. cotton industry passed industry policy and established a COTTON USA Sustainability Task force with the purpose of setting national goals for measurable continual improvements in key areas of environmental stewardship, farm productivity and resource efficiency such as land, water, air, input and energy use.

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The six specific goals the COTTON USA Sustainability Task Force has set to achieve by 2025 are:

  1. Reducing by 13 percent the amount of land needed to produce a pound of cotton fiber
  2. Reducing soil loss by 50 percent, in balance with new soil formation
  3. Increasing water use efficiency (more fiber per gallon) by 18 percent
  4. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 39 percent
  5. Increasing soil carbon in fields by 30 percent
  6. Reducing energy to produce seed cotton and ginned lint by 15 percent

Our industry is using science-based metrics and benchmarks developed by Field to Market: The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture to assess environmental impacts and identify opportunities for improvement. Field to Market works across the entire agricultural supply chain to define, measure and advance the sustainability of U.S. crop production.

As the world’s largest cotton exporting country and the third largest producer, our industry’s sustainability efforts have the potential to reverberate throughout the global textile supply chain.

It’s not only the cotton that we care about. The majority of our farmers own the land and live on the land that they farm. This is their home. Our cotton is produced by over 18,000 family farmers who operate as small businesses and have farmed the land for decades. Our farmers want to leave the land better than they found it.

COTTON USA wants to make a difference in sustainable agriculture and drive change to make the world a better place for future generations. In setting quantifiable goals for sustainability, COTTON USA is taking a giant step toward a more sustainable future for our industry and for our families.

COTTON USA™ promotes U.S. cotton around the world. We’re dedicated to spreading the message of how our family farmers are employing innovative precision agriculture techniques that allow them to use less water and pesticides, for a kinder, greener world. It’s just one more reason why COTTON USA is the Cotton the World Trusts. Look closer at COTTON USA. We think you’ll like what you see. Click here to learn more.