Last October, Cotton Incorporated 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 success of the Cotton LEADS program has been impressive, recruiting more than 100 retailers, manufacturers and brands as partners. Mark Messura, SVP Global Supply Chain Marketing at Cotton Incorporated, said, “The founding members of Cotton LEADSâ„¢ program; including Cotton Australia, the National Cotton Council, Cotton Council International and Cotton Incorporated are gratified that so many businesses around the world recognize the ongoing environmental gains made by cotton growers in Australia and the United States.”
Joe Dixon, SVP of Production and Technical Services of Brooks Brothers, explained the synergistic fit between his employer’s sourcing needs and the Cotton LEADS philosophy. “Brooks Brothers is enthusiastically committed to sustainable sourcing. Because cotton continues to be a mainstay of Brooks Brothers’ product offerings, we require significant amounts of high quality, responsibly-produced cotton fiber. We look to a range of opportunities that, like the Cotton LEADSâ„¢ program, can demonstrate best practices, reduced environmental impact, and make a commitment to ongoing improvement and traceability.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
More information about the Cotton LEADS program can be found here: www.cottonleads.org