What is the 2025 Sustainable Cotton Challenge?
The 2025 Sustainable Cotton Challenge (2025 Challenge) serves as a cornerstone for change in the apparel and textile industry by encouraging brands and retailers to commit to source 100 percent of their cotton from the most sustainable sources by the year 2025. This second annual 2025 Sustainable Cotton Challenge report includes information and statistics on the achievements and impacts that the initiatives in this program are having on water, communities, soil quality, biodiversity, and social considerations and regulations.
The Challenge was formed in 2017 when His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales convened a group of CEOs through the work of his International Sustainability Unit that existed to address critical challenges facing the world. Those original 13 CEOs committed to working together to accelerate the use of sustainable cotton, which paved the way for other industry leaders to follow – resulting in 82 companies now committed to sourcing 100 percent sustainable cotton by 2025.
The purpose of the 2025 Challenge is to increase the uptake of organic and preferred cotton, which has the ability to increase the income of smallholder farmers, eliminate highly hazardous pesticides, eliminate or reduce the amount of pesticides and synthetic fertilizer used, reduce water use and improve water quality and soil health.
Today, 22 percent of the world’s cotton is more sustainable. By 2025, it is the vision of the 2025 Sustainable Cotton Challenge (2025 Challenge) that more than 50 percent of the world’s cotton is converted to more sustainable growing methods. One of the key focuses going forward will be to drive continuous improvement across the initiatives with a focus on best practices for soils. Implementing regenerative practices, which puts carbon back into the soil, is a key investment farmers can make to mitigate and reduce the climate crisis.
Brands and retailers joining the challenge and committing to source more sustainable cotton can choose from Textile Exchange’s list of recognized organic and sustainable cotton initiatives. These initiatives include:
- BASF e3
- Better Cotton Initiative (BCI)
- Cleaner Cotton
- Cotton made in Africa (CmiA)
- Fairtrade Organic
- Field to Market
- Organic Cotton
- Recycled Cotton
- REEL Cotton
- Regenerative Cotton
- Transitional Cotton
- United States Cotton Trust Protocol
By committing to using cotton from these initiatives and standards, the brands are ensuring that the intentions of their sustainable sourcing strategies are maintained and the integrity of their commitments uncompromised.
2nd Annual 2025 Sustainable Cotton Challenge ReportAccess the 2nd Annual Report
Current brands that have accepted the 2025 Sustainable Cotton Challenge are:
“The resiliency of our long-term sourcing strategies starts on the farm. As the climate changes and we experience disruptions like COVID-19, we need to sustain the momentum of market share growth of preferred cotton to actively manage risk, enable end-to-end visibility and deliver value to investors, consumers, employees, and the planet.” Cara Smyth, Founder of the Sustainable Business Coalition
“The tide is turning on traditional supply chains, with demands for greater transparency generating a change from transactional relationships to transformational partnerships.”Alison Ward, CEO at CottonConnect
We believe cotton can be sourced in a way that actually restores the environments it comes from and betters the lives of the people who grow it.” Zachary Angelini, Environmental Stewardship Manager at Timberland
This first annual report provides information and statistics on the achievements and impacts these programs are having on water, communities, soil quality, biodiversity and social considerations and regulations. By committing to use cotton from these initiatives and standards, the brands are ensuring that the intentions of their sustainable sourcing strategies are maintained and the integrity of their commitments are uncompromised.
Sustainable Cotton Matrix
The Sustainable Cotton Matrix is referenced in the Sustainable Cotton Challenge Report and can be accessed here. Sustainable production practices and technology are constantly evolving and adaptation is critical at the farm gate. These initiatives provide education, assistance and the platforms needed to guide us all to a more sustainable cotton supply. Sorting out the nuances, attributes and differing approaches can be a daunting task. Textile Exchange has attempted to provide a snapshot of the differences and similarities between these programs. Effects on the environment, economics and social ethics are compared via the Sustainable Cotton Matrix, which we use to detail the initiatives in this report. It is our hope that this can benefit brands, retailers and consumers when trying to decide on their sustainable cotton strategy and needs.
History of the Challenge
In May 2017, thirteen of the world’s most renowned clothing and textile companies, signed up to the 2025 Sustainable Cotton Challenge in the presence of His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales who’s International Sustainability Unit started the challenge. Over the following weeks and months, other companies also committed to the challenge of ensuring that 100% of the cotton they use comes from sustainable sources by 2025.
In March 2018, the Prince’s International Sustainability Unit was closed and Textile Exchange became the Initiative’s secretariat. Working under the guidance of a steering group with representatives from Marks & Spencer, Soil Association, Better Cotton Initiative, Levi Strauss & Co., and Kering, Textile Exchange continues to build on the momentum to secure a more sustainable cotton sector.
In recognition of the influential work HRH The Prince of Wales has done to start this initiative, Textile Exchange received the honor of being in Our Future King: Prince Charles at 70, a coffee-table book celebrating a lifetime of achievement, and heralding his current and future roles and responsibilities. The inclusion of the 2025 Sustainable Cotton Challenge is featured on pages 138-139. The eBook version is available here.
How to Participate
This initiative is a catalyst to spur a shift in the market towards the use of more sustainable cotton. As stated in the original Communiqué, companies will be required to report their cotton consumption to Textile Exchange’s Corporate Fiber and Materials Benchmark survey annually, which is how we are tracking the progress across all participating brands towards the collective goal. All information that you input into Textile Exchange’s Corporate Fiber & Materials Benchmark survey is completely anonymous and is aggregated across all participants in the annual report to show progress. Your company information will never be singled out and published without your company’s explicit request or consent.
If this sounds like a leadership opportunity that your company would be interested in, we would warmly welcome your participation. There is no cost to participate, and you don’t have to be a member of Textile Exchange. To join the Challenge, fill out the Pledge link below. If you have any questions, please contact us.
To pledge, please fill out this form:
Facts About Cotton
Cotton is the most abundantly produced natural fiber and its production supports the livelihoods of over 350 million people. Despite its global importance, cotton production is beset by a number of environmental and social challenges that undermine the sustainability of the sector as a whole. Whilst cotton only covers 2.4% of the world’s arable land, it accounts for 6% of global pesticide use. With around 2,720 liters of water needed to make just one t-shirt, cotton production is highly dependent on water, and artificially irrigated areas can deplete local water sources. Higher temperatures and changing rainfall patterns caused by climate change are likely to cause severe water shortages in some areas, as well as increase the prevalence of pests and diseases, and in turn negatively affect yields. The challenges of the cotton sector are also social and economic, with cotton farmers and their dependents negatively impacted by the over-use of pesticides and petroleum based fertilizers, and rising costs of production and volatile market prices.
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For information on cotton sourcing, webinars, and media. https://textileexchange.org/materials-z/planning-an-effective-cotton-strategy/