By Richard Shaw
Manager, Research Logistics/Operations
Responding To Consumers
Today, brands and retailers want sustainable products to meet anticipated consumer preference. A major driver has long been their own personal and corporate dedication to be “greener,” because it is the responsible thing to do.
Farmers in the United States have adopted more sustainable production practices because it is the right thing to do. A strong driver for them has been to preserve the land for future generations – not to mention the economic benefits of sustainable practices.
This invariably requires practices that are considered “green” and meet regulatory requirements, making the U.S. grower the most sustainable in the world. The industry is at a point where it is possible to bring these goals and accomplishments together to provide more sustainable products consumers are demanding.
Practical Hurdles Ahead
While apparel brands and retailers recognize the U.S. cotton grower as a sustainably-oriented producer, there are practical requirements that must be met to compete with the future supplies of “sustainable” cotton from our major global competitors. Apparel brands and retailers will demand documentation and verification, including a third-party audit of sustainable production practices.
Some retail apparel and other textile producers understand that sustainable production practices are to the economic and social benefit of growers. What must be understood by the textile industry is that producers enjoy these rewards currently without cost of documentation and verification.
While cotton growers must accept the need to participate in the documentation and verification process, the rest of the supply chain must accept that these steps result in a cost throughout the supply chain.
Compensation to each step of the supply chain is not optional. Sustainably produced cotton is a reality. Goods made from this cotton will be a reality when the grower is adequately compensated for delivering a fiber that brands, retailers and consumers are assured is made from sustainably grown cotton.