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U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol Releases Inaugural Annual Report


Late last year, the U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol released its first annual report, detailing its achievements over 2020 and 2021. In little more than a year, the protocol established a system tracking sustainably grown cotton from scratch and attracted 560 member organizations from across the supply chain.

The annual report provides a complete overview of the protocol’s programs supporting U.S. cotton growers to deliver against science-based sustainability targets and improve their performance in six key metrics including land use, soil conservation, energy use, greenhouse gas emissions, soil carbon and water use.

U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol’s Impact on Cotton Sustainability

The U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol aims to bring metrics to sustainable cotton farming so every member in the U.S. cotton supply chain gains transparency about their environmental impact. The protocol provides the only farm-level sustainability data on cotton in the U.S. and article-level transparency on sustainable cotton fibers. They have set measurable goals across six metrics to validate sustainability performance, as well as goals for increasing their membership and footprint.

Cotton Bales: Enrolled approximately 950,000 cotton bales, representing 6% of all U.S. cotton grown in 2020/21. They aim to bring on 3 million more bales in 2021/22 and 50% of the cotton grown in the U.S. by 2025.

Membership: 525 mills and manufacturers joined including global apparel manufacturer Gildan and 37 brands and retailers joined including Levi Strauss & Co.PVH Corp (Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger), and Gap Inc. (Old Navy, Gap, Banana Republic and Athleta).

Sustainability: Goals align with the U.S. cotton industry’s 2025 national goals of decreasing greenhouse gas emissions by 39%, soil loss per acre by 50%, water use by 18%, and energy use by 15% while increasing soil carbon by 30% and land use efficiency by 13%.

The U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol Fosters Transparency

The U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol verifies the U.S. cotton industry’s progress toward its sustainability goals using an independent third party. It sets production principles and criteria for growers on these sustainability goals, as well as supporting worker well-being and safety, and verifies grower data through third-party desktop applications and field visits. The protocol’s annual report shows members’ progress toward each of these goals.

Across the U.S. cotton supply chain, the protocol fosters transparency through programs like:

The Protocol Credit System: Tags each kilogram of ginned cotton with a unique credit that follows it through the life of the supply chain. 

The Permanent Bale Identification System: Assigns a unique ID number to every bale of cotton to track fiber qualities.

Each credit ties to the bale’s identification number, ensuring credits are issued on actual yield and enabling full transparency throughout the U.S. cotton supply chain.

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