Global coalition set to make sustainable cotton the mainstream choice

cotton producer

Leading international brands and retailers, cotton standards, existing industry initiatives and other stakeholders across the supply chain have come together to form Cotton 2040. Convened by sustainability non-profit Forum for the Future, with support from the C&A Foundation, this unique cross-industry initiative is driving change by taking collaborative action to scale up and overcome barriers to sustainable cotton uptake across multiple standards, so that more sustainable cotton becomes a mainstream commodity.

The initiative includes leading retailers M&S and Target; industry standards Better Cotton Initiative and Cotton Made in Africa (CMiA), organic standards (represented by Textile Exchange), the Fairtrade Foundation, industry initiatives Cotton Connect, IDH, Cotton Australia, Value Added in Africa and Organic Cotton Accelerator as well as the London College of Fashion.

Through research and close consultation with cotton stakeholders across the industry over 2015-2016, the following priority areas for action were identified:

1. Building demand for more sustainable cotton: enabling an increased demand for sustainable cotton within the fashion and apparel industry

2. Closing the loop on cotton: scaling up cotton recycling and circularity

3. Traceability: building greater visibility and transparency throughout the cotton value chain and across standards

4. Upskilling for resilience: creating a cross-industry forum to build resilience among smallholder cotton farmers in a changing world.

Over the next two to three years, working groups will be developing best practice in workstreams across these areas, to share with the wider industry.

The first, ‘Building demand for sustainable cotton’, was launched in November 2016 with the aim of increasing uptake of sustainable cotton from the industry to drive production from 13% to beyond 30% from 2020. The work is highlighting the benefits of choosing sustainable cotton and provide resources and guidance on sourcing it, and includes:

- A sustainable cotton sourcing guide, which will serve as a standard-neutral decision-making tool for companies wanting to start or increase sustainable cotton sourcing. It will help them develop strategies across different standards, types of cotton or sourcing regions.

- A clear business case for sourcing more sustainable cotton, which can be used to drive internal engagement of procurement teams and others, and will include tools to support this.

- Lessons and insights from those who have taken a pioneering role in sustainable

cotton sourcing so that those starting out can go further, faster.

These tools, currently in development, will be tested and piloted by coalition members, then launched and shared with the wider textile industry in October 2017. The coalition is now looking for additional partners with resources, expertise and drive to take action in one or more of these four areas together. In particular, it is inviting organisations to get involved in the ‘Building Demand’ workstream and benefit from testing and piloting the framework internally.

Subindu Garkhel, Cotton Manager, Fairtrade Foundation, said: “The Cotton 2040 coalition creates a space for the shared knowledge and strengths each organisation can bring to the table. By coming together with businesses and other standards we believe we can bring about effective change in addressing systemic issues in the cotton sector.”

Sally Uren, CEO of Forum for the Future, said: “Past debate around sustainable cotton standards and industry initiatives has at times been polarising, but we know to make effective progress we need to work together. At Forum we believe that collaborative action is essential in order to address complex issues that no one entity – whether a business, standard, consumer group, NGO or government – can tackle alone. We’re delighted that leaders across the global cotton industry are ready and willing to come together and are excited to help steer them forward through this unique and growing partnership.”

Read the Cotton 2040 proposals for cross-industry workstreams to mainstream sustainable cotton for further details and find out more in the Cotton 2040 Case for Action.

To find out more or be part of Cotton 2040, contact Charlene Collison at or Alexa Rees-Jones at