Friday, February 3, 2023

Telling The Story Of U.S. Cotton To Brands And Retailers

stacey gorman
BY STACEY GORMAN
WARREN, ARKANSAS

T

he visionary cotton producers who formed the Cotton Research and Promotion Program in the 1960s knew that to stay relevant in our industry they had to come together to tell the story of U.S. cotton.

Over the years, the story of cotton’s advantages over synthetic fibers has evolved, expanded and become multi-faceted with different messages targeting different audiences. One of the most important messages recently has been that U.S. cotton farmers are committed to sustainability and continuous improvement on their farms.

Cotton Incorporated has made an effort this year to support programs and projects that educate key decision makers at major brands and retailers in the supply chain about U.S. cotton production. It has also given U.S. cotton farmers multiple platforms to share their stories.

Cotton Sustainability Summit

In September, The Cotton Board’s Importer Support Program, together with Cotton Incorporated, hosted a Cotton Sustainability Summit in La Jolla, California. The goal of the Summit was to examine sustainability issues from multiple perspectives (growers, retailers, activists, etc.) and to communicate sustainability initiatives that are taking place in the textile supply chain — from producers to brands and retailers.

This type of dialogue is essential for the industry to effectively position cotton as the fiber of choice for sustainable sourcing programs. Among the 100 Summit participants were representatives from major brands and retailers that are significant users of cotton. Many of them were primarily responsible for their company’s sustainability efforts.

California cotton producer Aaron Barcellos (middle) participated in a panel discussion titled “U.S. Cotton: Setting a New Standard in Sustainability” at the Cotton Sustainability Summit in La Jolla, California.

Cotton producers Cannon Michael (California), Aaron Barcellos (California) and Meade Hardwick (Louisiana) attended the summit and presented during panel discussions, sharing information and stories about their experiences as U.S. cotton producers.

Sessions focused on topics such as agricultural practices with a specific emphasis on regenerative farming, impacts of climate change on farming practices, transparency and traceability in the supply chain, the circular economy, and many more issues currently facing fashion-sector decision makers.

“This Summit was a great example of what the cotton industry can do when there is open and meaningful collaboration,” said Elizabeth King, Cotton Board vice-president of importer relations.

The Cotton Board, Cotton Incorporated, the National Cotton Council and Cotton Council International were all in attendance and unified in their support of the goals of the meeting.

ISP Farm Tours

After a two-year Covid-related hiatus, The Cotton Board’s Importer Support Program was able to host two farm tour events in October. This year’s Importer Farm Tour events included 61 attendees representing companies such as Target, Gildan, Tommy Hilfiger, Walmart, Macy’s, American Eagle Outfitter, and many other major brands and retailers.

Participants flew into Memphis, Tennessee, where they heard from Cotton Incorporated’s team of experts, visited the U.S. Department of Agriculture cotton classing office, and crossed the river into Arkansas to visit a cotton farm and gin.

Arkansas cotton producers Jason Felton and Larry McClendon hosted the tour groups’ farm visits and shared a glimpse into the care they take with their land. Overall, these tours help renew participants’ interest in cotton and leave them with the knowledge to feel good about using cotton, especially U.S. cotton, in their businesses.

Events and programs like the Sustainability Summit and the ISP Farm Tours allow Cotton Incorporated to help bridge the gap between cotton producers and the end-users who are buying their cotton. Impressions and opinions are positively changed when key decision-makers see the innovation, sustainability practices and sophisticated technology that go into producing U.S. cotton — and especially when they hear directly from U.S. cotton producers.


Stacey Gorman is The Cotton Board’s director of communications and may be reached at sgorman@cottonboard.org.

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