In 2016, the Cotton On Group set itself the bold goal to use 30% more sustainable cotton in its products by 2019. There are smaller milestones in place to help reach this and the first target – to use 4% Better Cotton in FY17 – has recently been exceeded by 0.3%.
The Group is celebrating this accomplishment, while simultaneously recognising just how much there is left to do.
Cotton is one of the world’s most important resources; it supports the livelihoods of millions of farmers and is used across the world every single day. In fact, 25 million tonnes of cotton is produced every year.
But even though it’s a renewable natural resource, it’s also often referred to as a ‘thirsty’ and ‘dirty’ crop as it uses trillions of litres of scarce water resources, excessive pesticides, and the industry has a poor human rights record in certain parts of the world.
To help combat this, the Cotton On Group is an active member of BCI, meaning it agrees to source ‘Better Cotton’ – more sustainable cotton produced by licensed BCI farmers.
BCI exists to make cotton production better for farmers who produce it and the environment. It does this by training farmers in more sustainable practices. The organisation aims to have 5 million farmers across countries such as Brazil, India, Pakistan, Mozambique and Turkey producing 8.2 million metric tonnes of Better Cotton by 2020.
By working closely with its suppliers, in the past year the Cotton On Group has sourced 620,000 kilos of Better Cotton, supporting farmers and their families.
To complement this important membership, the Group is also proud to support the Kwale Cotton Project; a sustainable cotton initiative in Kwale, Kenya managed in partnership with organisations Business for Development, Base Titanium and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
The Kwale Cotton project has partnered with farmers to develop an inclusive business which works towards sustainable community development. Training and on-the-ground support is provided to the 1,000 farmers involved so they can successfully plant, grow and harvest cotton and the skills learnt can also be transferred to farming other crops. Additionally, the cotton is 100% rain-fed and utilises minimum pesticides to ensure a sustainable environmental approach is applied. The Group purchases 100% of the cotton grown for use in their products and the initiative plays an active role in improving farmers’ livelihoods – as well as being better for the environment.
But the Group is not shy in recognising that there is plenty more to be done. Alongside its work with BCI and the Kwale Cotton Project, the retailer continues to focus on improving sustainability across the business (the topic was a focus at the recent supplier engagement conference) and identifying ways to become more transparent and resourceful in the way it does business.