2025 Sustainable Cotton Challenge

How It Started

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.

The sustainable cotton community and its members believe that there is a necessity for cotton to be produced and used more sustainably not only to reduce its burden on the environment, but also as a pathway to lift millions of people out of poverty. Cotton is also an important rotational crop for smallholders and the cash income it creates is vital for farmers’ livelihoods, contributing to both improved living standards and to food security. Addressing the land water, and social impacts of cotton supply chains will also move the textile industry closer to achieving the UN SDG’s.

The 2025 Sustainable Cotton Challenge challenges retailers and brands to champion the greater use of sustainable cotton by aiming that 100% of the cotton from their supply chains comes from the most sustainable sources.

The Initiative

There have been substantial gains made over the past few years in scaling the production of more sustainable forms of cotton, with production higher than ever before. However, companies are only actively sourcing less than a fifth of more sustainable material.

Companies that use cotton therefore have a significant role to play in correcting this disparity by building demand for more sustainable cotton. The companies that pledged their support for the original communiqué are at various stages on their journey to using sustainable cotton, with some just beginning and others already securing all of their cotton from sustainable sources. However, these companies recognize that sustainability across the cotton sector cannot be achieved by a few companies alone, and that collaboration across the sector is needed to bring about transformative change.

The 2025 Sustainable Cotton Challenge defines sustainable sources as Organic, Fairtrade, Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), Cotton Made in Africa and recycled cotton certified to an independently verifiable standard such as the Global Recycled Standard (GRS) or the Recycled Claim Standard (RCS). In addition, Cotton Connect’s REEL program and code provides a starting point for businesses aiming to for greater sustainability in their cotton supply chain.

Our Momentum

In May 2017, 13 of the world’s most renowned clothing and textile companies, in the presence of His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales, signed up to the 2025 Sustainable Cotton Challenge. On October 11th, 24 more clothing and textile companies signed up at the annual Textile Exchange conference. In January 2018, C&A also signed up, bringing the total number of companies to 38. Through this challenge, these companies have committed to ensuring that 100% of the cotton they use comes from sustainable sources by 2025.

As of March 2018, it was decided that the International Sustainability Unit would close. Given this decision, it was decided that Textile Exchange would take over the role of the initiative’s Secretariat. Textile Exchange is thrilled keep this great momentum going.

Next Steps and Resources

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 independently publish their progress from 2018 which will be collected by Textile Exchange.

If your company is interested in signing up for the 2025 Sustainable Cotton Challenge, please follow and fill out the Pledge link below.

Visit Our Cotton Strategies Page

For information on cotton sourcing, webinars, and media. https://textileexchange.org/materials-z/planning-an-effective-cotton-strategy/

Preferred Fiber and Materials Benchmarking Portal

Register or Sign-In to the PFM Portal http://pfm.textileexchange.org/signin