True visibility in cotton supply chain crucial, says GlobalData

True visibility in cotton supply chain crucial, says GlobalData

True visibility in the cotton supply chain is key for international fashion brands, says GlobalData.

As consumers increasingly question the provenance of the clothes they wear, fashion brands and retailers need to be able to unravel their cotton supply chains all the way from seed to sale, the research and analytics company asserts.

“Cotton is one of the main components of clothing, yet it passes through numerous steps from the seed to the field, multiple gin points, warehouses, merchants, mills and garment manufacturers – making it difficult to understand where, by whom and how it is grown,” said Leonie Barrie, apparel analyst at GlobalData. 

As well as consumer demands to be more traceable and transparent about their production chains, brands are also expected to meet internal corporate environmental and social goals.

“In an era of responsible retail, there’s more pressure on fashion brands and retailers to understand their supply chains from field to shelf,” she says. “After all, it’s only by knowing how and where their raw materials come from that they can make true sustainability claims about the cotton contained in their products.”

Among the solutions are initiatives such as BASF’s e3 Sustainable Cotton program, which encourages farmers to commit to continual improvement in land management, and can also track and trace cotton all the way from source to the end garment.

It is being used by brands such as Wrangler, whose Rooted Collection jeans launched earlier this year are made from 100-per-cent sustainable, locally-sourced e3 cotton grown, milled, cut and sewn in five American states.

Moreover, a deal with US$50 million start-up Vidalia Mills – the first denim mill to open in the US in almost a century – will see it become the first to exclusively use 100-per-cent e3 cotton sourced from across the US farm belt to build a transparent and sustainable denim supply chain in the US.

GlobalData has also been told the e3 program, which currently runs in the US, is being expanded to countries such as Turkey, Greece and Brazil.

Barrie adds: “Retailers have a duty to address wider social issues, and it is encouraging to see that many are not only talking about responsibility but demonstrating it through their business practices.

“Meaningful stories about products are also key to ensuring buy-in from consumers – and sustainability has an important part to play.”

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