What is the 2025 Sustainable Cotton Challenge?
The 2025 Sustainable Cotton Challenge serves as a cornerstone for change in the apparel and textile industry by encouraging brands and retailers to commit to source 100% of their cotton from the most sustainable sources by the year 2025. 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 work together to accelerate the use of sustainable cotton, which paved the way for other industry leaders to follow – resulting in now more than 39 companies committed to sourcing 100% sustainable cotton by 2025. Addressing the land, water, and social impacts of cotton supply chains will also move the textile industry closer to achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
At the time of its inception, the Challenge was known as the “Sustainable Cotton Communique” and its purpose was, and still is, to increase the uptake of organic and preferred cotton, therefore increasing the income of smallholder farmers, eliminating highly hazardous pesticides, eliminating or reducing the amount of pesticides and synthetic fertilizer used, reducing water use and improving water quality and soil health, which includes positive carbon impacts as a result of more sustainable practices. Today, 17% of the world’s cotton is more sustainable. By 2025, it is the vision of this Challenge that more than 50% of the world’s cotton is converted to more sustainable growing methods.
Brands and retailers joining the challenge and committing to source more sustainable cotton, can choose from sources that are included on Textile Exchange’s list of recognized organic and sustainable cotton initiatives. These initiatives include, *ABRAPA, *BASF e3, Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), *Cleaner Cotton, Cotton made in Africa (CmiA), Fairtrade, *Fairtrade Organic, *Field to Market, *ISCC, *myBMP, Organic, Recycled cotton (that is certified to an independently verifiable standard such as the Global Recycled Standard (GRS) or the Recycled Claim Standard (RCS)), *REEL Cotton, *Regenerative Cotton and *Transitional Cotton.* Denotes initiatives being Benchmarked starting in 2019.
Current brands that have accepted the 2025 Sustainable Cotton Challenge are:
NEW! First Annual 2025 Sustainable Cotton Challenge Report
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.
“Greater transparency across the supply chain and stronger, more strategic relationships between supply chain partners will be critical to the much-needed widespread adoption of sustainable farming practices around the world.”Liza Schillo, Manager of Global Product Sustainability at Levi Strauss & Co.
“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
“There is growing recognition of the enormous social and environmental impact of the global fashion industry. The 2025 Sustainable Cotton Challenge shows how by working collaboratively the sector can scale rapidly solutions that are good for farmers, the environment and consumers alike.” Mike Barry, Director of Sustainable Business at Marks&Spencer
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 (add link to 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.
Visit Our Cotton Strategies Page
For information on cotton sourcing, webinars, and media. https://textileexchange.org/materials-z/planning-an-effective-cotton-strategy/
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