Since its launch in September of 2020, the U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol®, has attracted over 40 members from some of the world’s largest and most influential brands and retailers. Brand/retailer members include: American Eagle Outfitters, GAP, Gildan, J.Crew, Levi’s, Next, PVH, Target and Tesco.
CCI has also placed an emphasis on enrolling downstream suppliers to assist these brands and retailers in increasing their usage of U.S. cotton marketed under the Trust Protocol. As of January 2022, there are more than 400 Trust Protocol mill/manufacturer members in 25 countries. Combined, these mills consumed nearly 27 million bales of cotton in MY 2020/21, representing over 20% of global mill use and valued at approximately $10 billion.
The Trust Protocol brings quantifiable and verifiable goals and measurement to sustainable cotton production and drives continuous improvement in key sustainability metrics. With Agricultural Trade Promotion (ATP) funding, Cotton Council International (CCI) has promoted the Trust Protocol to mills, manufacturers, brands and retailers around the world.
There has never been a greater expectation for sustainability and transparency, as brands and retailers around the globe are being held accountable for every step of their supply chain. While U.S. cotton is widely recognized for its quality, the industry and its growers lacked the data and third-party verification to support its sustainability credentials, leading many brands and retailers to exclude U.S. cotton from their list of sustainable cottons. The Trust Protocol addresses these issues and gives its members the critical assurances they need to communicate their sustainability stories to stakeholders, setting it apart from other sustainability initiatives and helping put U.S. cotton “on the list.”
CCI and the Trust Protocol hired a global communication firm, Hill + Knowlton Strategies (H&K), to conduct a multi-market campaign aimed at increasing awareness of the Trust Protocol and driving enrollment among the top 100 global brands and retailers. In 2021, with the assistance of H&K, the Trust Protocol introduced brands and retailers to the program at four major sustainability events as well as a Trust Protocol-sponsored Virtual Farm Tour, which attracted over 300 participants from 75 brand/retailer companies.
In addition to events, Trust Protocol digital content emphasized the benefits of the program to potential members and social media maximized its audience reach. This digital strategy generated over 3 million impressions and drove 110,000 visitors to the Trust Protocol website (trustuscotton.org).
H&K also engaged influential NGOs in the fashion industry on the benefits of the Trust Protocol. Many brands and retailers look to credible, outside sources to help direct their sustainable sourcing decisions, so gaining support from these organizations is crucial.
The U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol is aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals and recognized on Textile Exchange’s list of preferred fibers and materials and as part of its 2025 Sustainable Cotton Challenge. The Trust Protocol is also acknowledged by Forum for the Future and is part of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, Cotton 2040 and Cotton Up initiatives. The initiative has also been recognized and published in the standard mapping process by the International Trade Centre.