Monday, December 11, 2023

Can a New Better Cotton Traceability Initiative Transform Industry Standards?


Better Cotton, the world’s largest cotton sustainability program, has rolled out a first-of-its-kind traceability system designed to shine a light on the intricate journey of cotton from fields to stores.

The new platform, Traceable Better Cotton, was developed over three years by Better Cotton, which represents more than 20 percent of global cotton production. The new program’s goal is to provide an essential tool for fashion and textile companies to enhance transparency and comply with increasing global regulations concerning supply chain diligence.

This new traceability solution not only underscores the growing trend toward greater transparency in the textile and fashion industries but also marks a critical step in enabling brands to meet regulatory standards and consumer expectations in an increasingly conscientious market.

A critical aspect of this advancement is the collaborative effort between Better Cotton and its allied retailers and brands including H&M Group, Marks & Spencer, Walmart, Target, Bestseller, Gap Inc, and C&A. These partnerships underscore the sector’s push toward confirming the origins of raw materials and mitigating any negative impacts on human rights and environmental standards.

materials, fabric, textiles
Courtesy Jingwen Yang

Better Cotton’s recent initiative enables member companies to source cotton with confidence from specified countries, offering new depths of supply chain transparency. This paves the way for integrating detailed insights into their supply chain evaluations, a practice becoming more vital in the modern marketplace.

The scope of the traceability system is ambitious, aiming to establish a foundation for an Impact Marketplace that will reward farmers for their advancements in the field. It will also facilitate country-specific Life Cycle Assessments to appraise the environmental footprint of Better Cotton against traditional cotton varieties and underpin consumer and corporate claims with solid evidence.

Distinguishing itself from the organization’s long-standing Mass Balance Chain of Custody model, Traceable Better Cotton is the physically trackable cotton in products, closely monitored throughout the supply chain. To support this, Better Cotton has unveiled a Chain of Custody Standard, setting the bar for suppliers dealing in traceable cotton.

Suppliers will utilize the Better Cotton Platform, powered by software from ChainPoint, to record and share transaction data. This creates a transparent picture of Better Cotton’s origins and the quantity present in each product, tracking from the cotton ginning phase to the final retail brand.

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Alan McClay, Chief Executive Officer of Better Cotton, highlighted the significance of this step, stating, “Traceability at scale for cotton will drive a seismic shift within our industry’s supply chains. Better Cotton’s traceability solution is poised to help the industry deliver that shift. Never before has transparency been as imperative as it is now to our retail and brand members. We’re grateful to every organization that has helped shape the development of the Better Cotton Platform and stand committed to its constant improvement.”

Marks & Spencer, a key participant in this initiative, has made significant strides in responsible sourcing. Katharine Beacham, Head of Materials and Sustainability at Marks & Spencer, says 100 percent of the cotton the retailer sources for clothing comes from more responsible sources, “however, across the industry the global supply chain remains particularly complex,” she said. “Since 2021, we have been proud partners working with Better Cotton to improve the traceability of cotton and we’re delighted to be able to be part of this first-of-its kind solution which will enable us to track our cotton at scale along the supply chain.”

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