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Sustainable cotton makes headway

Cultivation of sustainable cotton has never been higher, reaching 2.6 million tons in 2015-16 and representing around 12 per cent to 15 per cent of global cotton supply. Of the companies actively sourcing sustainable cotton, efforts are being driven by five frontrunners – IKEA, Tchibo, M&S, C&A, and H&M. The frontrunners are followed by eight companies which are well on the way to sourcing more sustainable cotton: Adidas, Otto, Nike, Levi Strauss, Woolworths, VF Corporation, Tesco and Kering.

IKEA, C&A and Adidas stand out for sourcing more than 50 per cent of the cotton they use as sustainable cotton. Eleven companies have a target for sourcing 100 per cent more sustainable cotton by 2020 or earlier: IKEA, C&A, M&S, Tchibo, H&M, Adidas, Otto, Nike, Levi Strauss, Woolworths and Decathlon.

Despite the positive uptake from international retailers and increasing supply of more sustainable cotton, and the fact that sustainable cotton accounts for 12 per cent to 15 per cent of total global cotton production, only around a fifth of this is actively sourced as sustainable. The remaining 79 per cent is traded as conventional cotton. The gap between available supply of sustainable cotton and uptake by companies presents a serious risk to the future of more sustainable cotton.