International retailers join cotton traceability panel

Better Cotton has brought together a panel of international retailers, including Marks & Spencer and Zalando, to help create new traceability solutions for the cotton supply chain.

Better Cotton said that the group, which also includes Danish clothing company BESTSELLER, will work with suppliers, NGOs and independent experts in supply chain assurance to “develop an approach that meets the pressing needs of industry today”.

The new group has already invested £1 million in an initial tranche of funding.

The non-profit said that transparency in the cotton supply chain will soon be a “must” for retailers, as lawmakers around the world move to toughen rules. Last month, the European Commission put forward new rules to ban greenwashing in the EU.

“Having worked in partnership with Better Cotton for over a decade, at M&S we have been at the forefront of sourcing more responsible cotton,” said Katharine Beacham, head of materials and sustainability at M&S. “We met our commitment of reaching 100 per cent responsibly sourced cotton in our clothing in 2019 – but there is still work to be done to improve traceability. We’re proud to be a part of Better Cotton’s Traceability Panel which will help to further accelerate progress within the industry.”

The panel will focus on all aspects of the cotton supply chain, from farmers and production to the consumer.

Better Cotton said that it has gathered input from over 1,500 organisations who have “made it clear that traceability is business-critical across the whole industry” and that “retailers and brands need to integrate sustainability and traceability into their standard business practices.”

“Many fashion retailers simply don’t know where the cotton in their clothes comes from,” said Alan McClay, chief executive, Better Cotton. “The reasons for not knowing are numerous, and in many cases, legitimate. This traceability panel is a major step towards addressing the reasons behind this inability to trackback to the source.

“We intend to address sourcing and intellectual property issues head on. Higher supply chain assurance comes at a cost –- as verifying the exact origins of a garment requires more checks and controls – so the investment of additional resources will be critical. “

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