Despite COVID-19, the National Cotton Council efforts to increase producer enrollment in the U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol and escalate the program’s global credibility gained momentum this summer.
What are the most recent developments?
■ Overall, the U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol is increasingly fostering cooperation between producers and brands/retailers, which were able to officially join the Trust Protocol beginning in mid-July. In addition, U.S. cotton’s sustainability message and U.S. cotton producers’ unmatched stewardship of the land, water and air are being promoted to consumers worldwide.
Specifically, as reported in the June column, the Trust Protocol’s inclusion as one of 36 fibers and materials in the Textile Exchange’s Material Change Index program means the program provides another sustainable cotton option for TE’s 170-plus participating brands and retailers.
Also, Control Union Certifications North America was selected to implement an independent, third-party verification program for the Trust Protocol. The CUC’s agriculture standards, experience and impeccable reputation are assuring brands, retailers and consumers that the Trust Protocol is meeting the highest sustainability standards.
More recently, the Trust Protocol and Field to Market: The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture formalized a partnership that strengthens the ability of U.S. cotton producers and the value chain to drive continuous improvement.
Field to Market brings together a diverse group of grower organizations; agribusinesses; food, beverage, restaurant and retail companies; conservation groups; universities and public sector partners that focus on defining, measuring and advancing the sustainability of food, fiber and fuel production.
Field to Market, in fact, is composed of nearly 140 members representing all facets of the U.S. agricultural supply chain. These members employ more than 5 million people and represent combined revenues totaling more than $1.5 trillion.
What’s the next step?
■ A recent global survey conducted by the Trust Protocol revealed that 54% of sustainability leaders at apparel and textile brands say they’ve seen their customers’ demands for environmentally sustainable practices and products increase since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. With companies and their customers remaining focused on sustainability, it is imperative that we heighten U.S. cotton’s credibility in the global textile supply chain.
Boosting U.S. cotton producer participation in the Trust Protocol will help tremendously. After enrolling 300 U.S. cotton producers in last year’s Trust Protocol pilot, COVID-19’s emergence initially affected our promotional efforts.
But we have received positive feedback from producers and program enrollment has steadily grown. We are optimistic about having 500-750 producers enrolled by December 2020.
Producers’ participation will provide them a unique opportunity to examine their farming operations for areas where further changes can be made — a step that not only should reduce their environmental footprint but benefit their bottom line.
More information, including an informative question/answer section, is at https://TrustUsCotton.org —where producers also can enroll.
Gary Adams is president/CEO of the National Cotton Council of America. He also serves as president of the U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol.