Major brands and retailers attended Cotton Council International’s (CCI) U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol® farm tours in October and November 2022 and expect to purchase an additional $95 million worth of U.S. cotton-rich products because of their participation. Additionally, 93% said the Trust Protocol is better than other sustainable cotton production standards, a major coup as future U.S. cotton exports depend heavily on brands and retailers including U.S. cotton on their list of sustainable fiber options.
CCI organized these two U.S. cotton farm tours for more than 30 participating brands and retailers to encourage membership in the Trust Protocol, the world’s first sustainable cotton fiber program to provide access to both full supply chain transparency and science-based field-level, verified data. Trust Protocol membership would pull more U.S. cotton through the supply chain.
The USDA’s Agricultural Trade Promotion Program (ATP) and the U.S. cotton industry contributed funding to these tours, which enabled participants to learn more about the Trust Protocol, meet U.S. cotton producers and see for themselves the farm-level initiatives driving sustainability in the U.S. cotton industry.
Following the tours, one participant expanded its Trust Protocol product lines, while two others initiated pilot programs, the first step toward Trust Protocol enrollment. Pilot programs allow brands and retailers to select specific products and suppliers to participate in the Trust Protocol. They offer valuable insights into how the Trust Protocol functions and the benefits of membership, paving the way for brands and retailers to scale up their usage of U.S. cotton across a larger product range and supply chain.
In post-event surveys, 86% of participants said they expect their companies to purchase more U.S. cotton-rich products. Furthermore, 100% of participants expressed satisfaction with the tour and said they learned a lot about the Trust Protocol.
Brands and retailers hold a unique spot in the textile and apparel supply chain, wielding significant influence over global sourcing decisions compared to other stakeholders. Their control over retail shelf space impacts consumer purchasing decisions, while their specifications dictate fiber purchases for mills and manufacturers. Given their influence on fiber selection throughout the supply chain, the future of U.S. cotton exports will rely on making U.S. cotton the preferred fiber choice for brands and retailers.
But, while brands and retailers hold the top spot in the textile and apparel value chain, they are facing mounting external pressure from governments and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), particularly in Europe, to adopt more rigorous sustainability standards. With many sustainability choices available, it is crucial for them to choose a program that can withstand tough scrutiny and clearly demonstrate the environmental and social impact of their organizations.
The Trust Protocol can provide the assurances these brands and retailers need to include U.S. cotton on their list of sustainable fiber options, and these U.S. cotton farm tours helped the participants to see that firsthand.