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New Forensic Verification Deal Makes US Cotton Fully Traceable—Here’s How

With traceability and authenticity at the forefront in the textile and apparel supply chain, Cotton USA and Oritain have signed a deal to provide forensic verification of the origin for all U.S. cotton to give brands and retailers the assurance they need to make responsible sourcing and purchasing decisions.

The new partnership follows a successful pilot program and rigorous blind test for Oritain, during which samples were collected across Arkansas, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Tennessee, and subsequently identified with 100 percent accuracy.

“We’re thrilled that Cotton USA is taking the lead when it comes to traceability,” Rupert Hodges, executive director at Oritain, said. “We want to support Cotton USA, [which is] making a conscious effort to find real, workable ways of farming more sustainably. The result is an incredibly high-quality crop that not only performs well, but supports the environment. Now through Oritain, customers who choose U.S. cotton can have total confidence that they are getting the product that they sourced.”

Oritain’s technology traces products back to their origin using advanced forensic science and data analysis. The company works with some of the largest producers, manufacturers and retailers across the fashion, food and pharmaceutical industries.

The U.S. cotton industry has long toiled to produce and deliver high-quality sustainable cotton, as evidenced by improved fiber properties, increased productivity and a shrinking environmental footprint. All cotton-producing regions in the U.S. are aiming to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions, soil loss, water, energy and land usage.

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“This partnership with Oritain will provide Cotton USA with a unique selling point in both domestic and export markets,” Bruce Atherley, executive director at Cotton Council International, said. “Now U.S. cotton will offer the highest level of end-to-end traceability in the industry, combined with a raw material that is leading the way in terms of sustainable practices–two things that global clothing brands now demand from their suppliers.”

Cotton Council International is a non-profit trade association that promotes U.S. cotton fiber and manufactured cotton products around the world with its Cotton USA trademark. Its mission is to make U.S. cotton the preferred fiber for mills and manufacturers, brands, retailers and consumers.

To achieve the level of traceability the industry is demanding, Oritain’s method applies forensic science to detect trace elements in the cotton itself. Soil composition and other environmental factors give the cotton what Oritain calls the “Origin Fingerprint,” which ensures where a particular cotton was grown.

Cotton can be tested at any stage on its path from farm to retail shelf, giving buyers complete assurance that the product has not been substituted along the way.

“Global supply chains are incredibly complex and the potential for blending and other illegal activity in the production of cotton textile products is large,” Hodges said. “However, given that Oritain’s Origin Fingerprint cannot be altered or faked, Cotton USA and their customers can be safe in the knowledge that their product is exactly what it says it is.”