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Major New Initiative: Cotton LEADS

In what promises to be a major new initiative for the cotton industry, Cotton Incorporated has launched “Cotton LEADS,” a  collaborative partnership designed to provide support for various research projects, act as a centralized hub for information regarding best practices and facilitate the creation of partnerships centered around cotton and its promotion.

Formed in partnership with the National Cotton Council of America, Cotton Council International (CCI) and Cotton Australia, Cotton LEADS is first animated by a desire to raise awareness about responsible growing practices on display in the U.S. and Australia.

The core commitment of Cotton LEADS is the advocacy of the socially and environmentally responsible production of cotton. The basis of the initiative’s creation is the recognition that sustainable cotton production requires a collective stewardship that not only encourages and communicates best practices but also supports new research and development as well as investment.

The U.S. and Australia together comprise the geographic fulcrum of Cotton LEADS’ efforts since each furnishes stellar examples of best production practices and because both combined account for 17 percent of global cotton production.

Kevin Latner, executive director of CCI, said, “U.S. and Australia cotton users can take confidence in the Cotton LEADS core principles, which are built upon a track record of responsible production practices and a commitment to continuing improvement.”

One of the primary concerns motivating the leadership of Cotton LEADS is the creation of a “cotton identification system” that lays transparent the totality of the supply chain from the beginning of production on the farm to the concluding stages at the manufacturer.

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For example, both the U.S. and Australia utilize module tickets to keep track of the entire production process. Every single bale of cotton, once ginned, is assigned a unique identification number represented on each ticket. These tickets can be used to classify cotton quality, classing office or the gin itself.

Adam Key, CEO of Cotton Australia, said, “Cotton producers in Australia and the U.S. pioneered practices that have resulted in impressive, country-wide environmental gains. Both countries approach improvement on a national level. This includes national reporting and regulatory enforcement, but also facilitates the national implementation of best practices and the ability to collect data on a national level.”

Cotton LEADS is also involved in the design of a “global comprehensive inventory of data relating to cotton production and textile manufacturing.” This kind of benchmarking wouldn’t be limited to agricultural data but actually follow cotton through each link of the supply chain including “garment creation, product use and maintenance, transportation and product end-of-life.” In other words, a full view of cotton’s different permutations from its embryonic stages to its termination.

Berrye Worsham, CEO and President of Cotton Incorporated, said, “Ultimately, we are all committed to providing the supply chain with greater volumes of responsibly-grown cotton. COTTON LEADS is designed to assist businesses along the cotton supply chain with their sustainability goals. Apparel brands, retailers, and manufacturers require large volumes and a reliable supply of responsibly-produced fiber, as well as proof of responsible production. Through COTTON LEADS we demonstrate how cotton grown in the United States and Australia can help meet these requirements.”

Cotton LEADS is open to partnerships with textile companies, brands and retailers at no cost and encourages its partners to be “active participants by supporting research projects, helping to disseminate information on best practices, or creating partnerships for continual improvement.”

Speaking to the Sourcing Journal, Mark Messura, SVP of Global Supply Chain Marketing for Cotton Incorporated, said, “In sourcing, the goal is to find responsible partners who help you achieve your business goals. That’s what Cotton LEADS(tm) is all about. Cotton farmers and their industries in Australia and the United States are committed to responsible production and continual improvement as suppliers of cotton fiber. The leading-edge efforts in these two countries bring confidence, transparency, and responsibility to sourcing and supply chains for manufacturers, brands and retailers throughout the world.”

The full press release for Cotton LEADS can be found here.