Using eco-friendly cotton and minimizing environmental impact have become a greater focus for more global clothing companies.
Last week, top apparel brands including Asos and Nike, committed to the Sustainable Cotton Communiqué at a London meeting organized by The Prince of Wales’ International Sustainability Unit (ISU). Through this agreement, the clothing companies pledged to source 100 percent sustainable cotton by 2025.
“Cotton production is all too often associated with the depletion of local water supplies and the widespread, and sometimes indiscriminate, use of harmful pesticides and, as all of you know only too well, it can take a heavy toll on human health,”Prince Charles said at the meeting, according to the Belfast Telegraph. “This communique therefore signals a powerful commitment by some of the most well-known clothing and textile companies to put the sector on a more sustainable path, and to ensure its long-term viability.”
Since 2016, the ISU has collaborated with U.K. retailer Marks & Spencer and environmental non-profit The Soil Association to work with leading brands and other key stakeholders to collectively discuss more sustainable cotton production practices. Today, apparel brands use more than 300,000 tons of cotton annually, yet they actively source less than one-fifth of the world’s sustainable cotton. The communiqué aims to remedy this by having brands collectively source sustainable cotton from Global Recycled Standard (GRS) and Recycled Claim Standard (RCS) certified bodies, including the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), Cotton Made in Africa and Fairtrade.
“This is a significant moment and a demanding commitment to achieve existing standards–organic, Fairtrade, Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), Cotton Made in Africa and certified recycled cotton. While each of these standards delivers different outcomes, together, they form a strong foundation for improving cotton’s social and environmental sustainability across the industry,” Soil Association policy director Peter Melchett said. “Many of the companies supporting the initiative have a considerable way to go, while others have already achieved the commitment.”
In addition to sourcing from credible bodies, brands that pledged to the communiqué will also support sustainable cotton polices, work with farmers’ groups to foster more sustainable production systems and collaborate with other key players of the international cotton value chain, including fabric developers and producers. For next steps, the communiqué will require participating companies to publish their progress from 2018.
The Sustainable Cotton Communiqué follows other industry-wide sustainability commitments. Last month, in celebration of Earth Day, major retailers, including Walmart and Gap Inc., initiated new environmental efforts. Walmart debuted Project Gigaton, a project that urged its suppliers to axe their greenhouse gas emissions, while Gap Inc. introduced “Naturally Positive,” a new sustainability strategy that required the retailer to use more eco-friendly materials in its products. Luxury company LVMH also recently teamed up with Central Saint Martins to foster greener innovation among the industry’s emerging talent.