Adidas has obtained the top place in the Cotton Ranking 2020 published by three non-governmental organisations (NGOs—UK-based Pesticide Action Network (PAN), the Netherlands-based Solidaridad Network and World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).
Ikea, a well-established user of sustainable cotton, was second and H&M third, the ranking shows, while Marks & Spencer is the best UK performer.
The ranking looks at companies’ publicly declared policies and commitments, how much of the cotton they buy is actually from sustainable sources, and on how transparent they are with their supply chains.
Dozens of global firms have made substantial progress in their sourcing of sustainable cotton, the latest sustainable cotton rankings have confirmed, providing evidence more businesses are acting to ameliorate the fashion industry’s contribution to water scarcity, pollution, and loss of biodiversity.
But at the same time the new rankings confirm that a significant number of firms are still doing nothing to tackle the enviornmental impact of their cotton demand.
For the first time, more than half of the companies have commitments to use sustainable cotton although a third of the businesses are ranked “zero” as they have not begun.
“Leading British companies are showing international leadership on sourcing cotton that doesn’t damage the environment – but the gap between the best and the rest is simply not good enough.” WWF UK campaigns executive director Kate Norgrove said.
While 21 per cent of global cotton production is now more sustainable, only 5 per cent of global production is actively bought as sustainable by retailers and brands. The rest has to be sold as conventional cotton because not enough of the big brands explicitly shop for more sustainable cotton.
Isabelle Roger, global cotton programme manager of Solidaridad Network says: “Shockingly, three quarters of sustainable cotton is still sold as conventional cotton. Farmer groups end up selling the majority of their more sustainable produce as conventional cotton due to lack of demand. If the failing brands took their responsibilities seriously, this wouldn’t be an issue.”
Progress has been exemplified by companies like Bestseller (Jack&Jones, Vera Moda, ONLY) and Decathlon, which in 2017 were ranked as ‘starting the journey’ but are now ‘leading the way’, thanks to the sharp increase in their uptake of sustainable cotton. Almost all companies who made public commitments have made substantial improvements.
The number of companies lagging behind is largely unchanged since 2017. Around one-third of companies, including global names like Amazon, Footlocker, Giorgio Armani and Forever 21, scored zero in the ranking, despite increasing global concerns about worsening water scarcity, pollution, land degradation and loss of biodiversity.
“The ranking reveals that there is a small but growing group of frontrunners who are leading the way toward a more sustainable cotton sector, with their commitment over the last few years paying off. The report gives plenty of evidence that public commitments lead to results, however many companies have still not taken the necessary steps. CEOs of these laggard companies must change course and make time-bound commitments to use more sustainable cotton” said Alexis Morgan, WWF Global Water Stewardship Lead.