Sustainability standards and certification schemes aim to address the issues associated with unsustainable cotton production. They provide guidance to farmers on sustainable practices and give assurance to buyers that they meet certain requirements. Sourcing cotton produced according to a sustainable standard or certification is a good first step for companies to take to improve the sustainability of the cotton they procure. While each sustainable cotton standard is different, sourcing cotton from one or more sustainable standard can have significant environmental, social and economic benefits.
improve soil health
reduce water use
reduce chemical fertiliser use
reduce chemical pesticide use
Social and economic
promote decent work for farmers, workers and communities
help farmers become more profitable
increase confidence and trust among consumers
The impact of more sustainable cotton
Sustainable cotton standards and certification schemes vary in their requirements,
but typically share common benefits. These include:
Reducing use of hazardous chemicals on farms, or safer handling and more efficient use where chemicals are still used
Less excessive water use for irrigating cotton crops, which can benefit other local water users and natural habitats, particularly in water-stressed regions
Reducing poverty for cotton farmers and workers on cotton farms through higher yields.
Addressing each of these issues is critical for the long-term viability and sustainability of the industry.
Understanding the different sustainable cotton standards and other programmes, what they focus on, and their commonalities and differences is a vital first step for any company wishing to source more sustainable cotton. This guide provides information on those that are leading the way in sustainable cultivation practices and recognition by stakeholders.