PRESS RELEASE: Memphis, Tenn. — Since its establishment in 2013, the Cotton LEADS program has attracted more than 300 partners from across the global supply chain. On Tuesday, May 12, a luncheon was held in Gastonia, N.C., to update the U.S.-based partners on program activities and to announce the latest additions to the Cotton LEADS partner list: HanesBrands; Jo-Ann Fabrics; Kohl’s; and Life Is Good. More than 30 representatives from 20 brands, retailers and businesses across the cotton supply chain attended the event, and were reminded that the Cotton LEADS program will host a scientists’ roundtable later in the year to discuss research priorities for the program and the dissemination of that research to the global cotton community.
The Cotton LEADS program was launched to illustrate, at a national level, the responsible production practices of cotton growers in Australia and the United States, the program’s two founding countries. At the heart of the Cotton LEADS program is the commitment to continuous improvement in cotton growing practices in these countries; a unique situation made possible by the strict national and regional regulatory environments; grower self-investment in research and development; and the ability to affect best practices at a national level that exists in Australia and the United States.
“The goal of the Cotton LEADS program,” explains Mark Messura, senior vice president of Supply Chain Marketing at Cotton Incorporated, “is to assure the industry that the cotton entering their supply chain is being produced in an increasingly responsible manner.” Cotton LEADS cotton represents approximately 17 percent of global cotton supply.
The event included a presentation by Louisiana cotton grower Jay Hardwick, a Cotton LEADS governing board member, on the tools and practices used by modern U.S. cotton growers, such as the Fieldprint Calculator, which helps growers assess how production decisions affect the overall environmental footprint of their farming operation. Adam Kay, president of Cotton Australia, addressed the group via a videotaped message in which he outlined the growing practices of Australian growers. Kay also explained how third-party environmental audits that help to benchmark gains made by Australian growers and to identify areas for environmental focus. Dr. Bill Norman, vice president of Technical Services at the National Cotton Council, shared the results of a Field to Market study chronicling environmental gains made by U.S. cotton growers over the past three decades to illustrate the program’s ongoing improvement aspect. Dr. Gary Adams, National Cotton Council CEO, kicked off the event with a welcome and words of appreciation to the program’s partners.
The event served as an opportunity to announce the addition of four new partners to the Cotton LEADS program: HanesBrands; Kohl’s; Jo-Ann Fabrics; and Life Is Good. “By becoming a Cotton LEADS partner, these brands are acknowledging the gains already achieved by Cotton LEADS growers, and that cotton produced under the program’s principles meet the sustainability guidelines for their cotton products,” explained Messura.
Messura reminded the assembly that the Cotton LEADS program will convene a roundtable of eight to ten scientists later in the year to discuss research directions to benefit global cotton production practices, as well as the best means of disseminating the findings to the global community.
The Cotton LEADS program is a joint effort of the Australian cotton industry and the U.S. cotton industry as a project of the Cotton Foundation. Its founding members are Cotton Australia, the National Cotton Council of America, Cotton Council International and Cotton Incorporated. The program is designed to raise awareness of the responsible growing practices and commitment to continuous improvement among cotton producers in the member countries. More information on the Cotton LEADS program is at: www.cottonleads.org.