Modern Retail

U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol Research Highlights Demand for Sustainable Products and Business Practices

U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol

A year into lockdown, research from the U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol finds a sharp increase in consumer demand for sustainable products and business practices

  • 61% of brands and retailers say their customer demand has increased for environmentally sustainable business practices and goods/services. 
  • Nearly two thirds (63%) believe that the pandemic has had a positive impact on their company’s proactive investment in sustainability. 
  • Half of brands and retailers are expecting to see an increase in consumer spending on sustainable apparel over the next 12 months. 

Consumers around the world have adapted to social distancing measures and lockdowns over the last 12 months, with the way they dress, work, and shop changing dramatically. The U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol recently surveyed sustainability decision-makers at 1,000 brands and retailers in the U.S. and UK to determine the impact the pandemic has had on the importance of and investment in sustainability initiatives. As brands and retailers look to the future, there is a sense of optimism for increased consumer spending and investment in environmentally friendly practices – with 28% of brands and retailers committed to setting new industry standards for sustainability.  

As the one year of many countries going into lockdown approaches, the Trust Protocol’s research findings reveal that 69% of brands and retailers believe that the pandemic has emphasized the importance of environmentally friendly products to customers – with two-thirds (61%) also noting that there has been an increased demand for sustainable products.  

The research also found that 63% of brands and retailers stated that the pandemic has had a positive impact on their company’s proactive investment in sustainability with the following main areas of focus:  

  • Sourcing sustainably produced raw materials (42%) 
  • Manufacturing sustainability and reducing impacts of chemicals, water and energy (42%)  
  • Safe working environments (40%)
     
U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol

“It is undeniable that the pandemic has caused unforeseen challenges for brands, retailers and consumers alike – but this research reaffirms the commitment to a continued focus on sustainability,” said Dr. Gary Adams, president of the U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol.  “We’re encouraged to learn that so many brands and retailers are looking to set new standards for the industry, instead of simply following what currently exists. As we work towards recovery in many sectors, systems like the Trust Protocol are available to provide the data needed to verify that sustainability targets are being met.” 

As the vaccine roll-out picks up pace across the world, consumers are beginning to think about the ‘new normal’, with half (50%) of brands and retailers expecting to see an increase in customer spending on sustainable apparel over the next 12 months. They attribute the most common drivers for this increased spending to a need for people to get back to normal (62%) and that some consumers will have saved money during the pandemic (67%).  

As work continues towards delivering more sustainable options to meet growing consumer demand, findings show two thirds (65%) of brands and retailers agree that data is important to their future sustainability goals. The Trust Protocol will provide brands and retailers the critical assurances they need to show the cotton fiber element of their supply chain is more sustainably grown with lower environmental and social risk.  

The Trust Protocol is a system for more responsibly grown cotton that has committed to six areas of sustainability in line with the U.N. Sustainability Development Goals. It underpins and verifies sustainability progress through sophisticated data collection and independent third-party verification, enabling members to better track the cotton entering their supply chain.  Members also will have access to aggregate year-over-year data on water use, greenhouse gas emissions, energy use, soil carbon and land use efficiency.  

The Trust Protocol is included on the Textile Exchange’s list of 36 preferred fibers and materials that more than 170 participating brands and retailers can select from as part of Textile Exchange’s Material Change Index program. The Trust Protocol also is working to align with existing standards in the cotton industry and is part of the Forum for the Future Cotton 2040 and the CottonUp guide. 

About the U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol

In a period of ever-greater supply chain scrutiny and a growing demand for transparency, the U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol will set a standard for more sustainably grown cotton. It brings quantifiable and verifiable goals and measurement to the issue of responsibly grown cotton production and drives continuous improvement in key sustainability metrics. 
 
The Trust Protocol underpins and verifies U.S. cotton’s progress through sophisticated data collection and independent third-party verification. Choosing Trust Protocol cotton will give brands and retailers the critical assurances they need that the cotton fiber element of their supply chain is more sustainably grown with lower environmental and social risk. Brands and retailers will gain access to U.S. cotton with sustainability credentials proven via Field to Market, measured via the Fieldprint Calculator and verified with Control Union Certifications. 
 
The U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol is overseen by a multi-stakeholder Board of Directors comprised of representatives from brands and retailers, civil society and independent sustainability experts as well as the cotton-growing industry, including growers, ginners, merchants, wholesalers and cooperatives, mills and cottonseed handlers.

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