<< back to News

Cotton 2040: Making Sustainable Cotton a Viable Option


Convened by sustainability non-profit Forum for the Future, with support from the C&A Foundation, this unique cross-industry initiative is driving change by taking collaborative action to scale up and overcome barriers to sustainable cotton uptake across multiple standards, so that more sustainable cotton becomes a mainstream commodity.

cotton 2040 cotton field

The initiative includes leading retailers M&S and Target; industry standards Better Cotton Initiative and Cotton Made in Africa (CMiA), organic standards (represented by Textile Exchange), the Fairtrade Foundation, industry initiatives Cotton Connect, IDH, Cotton Australia, Value Added in Africa and Organic Cotton Accelerator as well as the London College of Fashion.

Through research and close consultation with cotton stakeholders across the industry over 2015-2016, the following priority areas for action were identified:

Building demand for more sustainable cotton: enabling an increased demand for sustainable cotton within the fashion and apparel industry

Closing the loop on cotton: scaling up cotton recycling and circularity

Traceability: building greater visibility and transparency throughout the cotton value chain and across standards

Upskilling for resilience: creating a cross-industry forum to build resilience among smallholder cotton farmers in a changing world.

cotton 2040

Over the next two to three years, working groups will be developing best practice in workstreams across these areas, to share with the wider industry.

The first, ‘Building demand for sustainable cotton’, was launched in November 2016 with the aim of increasing uptake of sustainable cotton from the industry to drive production from 13% to beyond 30% from 2020. The work is highlighting the benefits of choosing sustainable cotton and provide resources and guidance on sourcing it, and includes:

A sustainable cotton sourcing guide, which will serve as a standard-neutral decision-making tool for companies wanting to start or increase sustainable cotton sourcing. It will help them develop strategies across different standards, types of cotton or sourcing regions.

A clear business case for sourcing more sustainable cotton, which can be used to drive internal engagement of procurement teams and others, and will include tools to support this.

Lessons and insights from those who have taken a pioneering role in sustainable cotton sourcing so that those starting out can go further, faster.

These tools, currently in development, will be tested and piloted by coalition members, then launched and shared with the wider textile industry in October 2017.

Leslie Johnston, Executive Director of C&A Foundation, commented: “Cotton 2040 is not a new platform, but a smart way to accelerate the many good initiatives out there working to mainstream more sustainable cotton.  Together, we can be more than the sum of our parts and jointly tackle the effects of one of the world’s thirstiest crops.”

Mike Barry, Sustainable Business Director at M&S, said: “We’re supporting Cotton 2040 as we recognise the important role that retailers play in driving demand for sustainable cotton. We have set out to significantly increase the amount of cotton we procure from sustainable sources by 2020 and we want to work collaboratively to affect material, lasting change across the industry.”

The coalition is now looking for additional partners with resources, expertise and drive to take action in one or more of these four areas together. In particular, it is inviting organisations to get involved in the ‘Building Demand’ workstream and benefit from testing and piloting the framework internally.

Read the Cotton 2040 proposals for cross-industry workstreams to mainstream sustainable cotton for further details and find out more in the Cotton 2040 Case for Action.

Related articles:

The Six Stages of Organic Cotton Production

Sustainable Alternatives To Toxic Fibres

Fabric Appreciation Short Course #2

<< back to News