SPONSORED CONTENT – The US Cotton Trust Protocol recently collaborated with transparency platform TextileGenesis to offer its members the benefit of full supply chain transparency. Apparel Insider found out more when it caught up with Trust Protocol president, Dr Gary Adams.
Any notion that transparent supply chains were a passing fad have been blown out of the water these past 12 months as fashion brands and retailers have doubled down on efforts to shed increased light on where and how they do business. On top of brands and retailers looking to operate in a way which reflects their desire to be better corporate citizens, such moves are also driven by, on the one hand, demand from consumers and, on the other, imminent regulatory requirements.
To this end, the opportunity to boost transparency in U.S. cotton sourcing by offering brands and retailers complete article-specific supply chain transparency for finished products – not previously accessible to them – was a no-brainer for the U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol. The Protocol Consumption Management Solution (PCMS) harnesses blockchain technology to record and verify the movement of US cotton fibre along the entire supply chain through a powerful combination of the Protocol Platform and the TextileGenesis platform. The PCMS also provides absolute authentication of US cotton origin, verified against the US Department of Agriculture’s database.
Dr Gary Adams told us: “The TextileGenesis platform provides a perfect complement to our own Protocol Platform in creating the Protocol Consumption Management Solution (PCMS), which not only forms the basis of our supply chain transparency offer but also acts as the vehicle for providing environmental data to our members. Where brands and retailers have had very little science-based field level data to work with in the past, we’re looking to change that.”
As part of the PCMS, blockchain technology tracks and verifies the ‘more sustainably grown’ cotton through the entire supply chain, from the gin to the mill, to the finished product.
Fashion businesses will receive a transparency map that provides the authenticated origin of the US cotton, along with the names and locations of the Trust Protocol mill members that were involved in all the parts of the production process, into the finished products that are shipped to the brand or retailer.
At that point, brands or retailers can claim Protocol Cotton Consumption Units, which have a proportional amount of the total farm-level environmental data captured that can be assigned. This allows the brand or retailer to start making their own sustainability claims and communicate progress to customers as well as other stakeholders, including investors and shareholders.
Initial pilot trials with selected brands and mills will continue throughout 2021, with full deployment of the PCMS envisioned for early 2022.
Asked about the thinking behind creating a whole system providing supply chain transparency, Dr Adams said: “It’s an area we’ve been actively engaging with brand and retailer audiences for some time. Recent research conducted earlier this year by the Trust Protocol found 61 per cent of surveyed brands and retailers noted there has been an increased demand for sustainable products since the beginning of the pandemic. While it’s hard to be certain about customer shifts in perception, one could easily attribute this to being a biproduct of the ‘build back better’ agenda which has followed the COVID pandemic.
“Saying that, we have certainly seen transparency become a priority in the industry over the last five to ten years. It plays an important role in more sustainable products, ensuring the fibre bought is the equivalent to the fibre in the final product. Many of our brand and retailer members, when providing initial feedback on joining, found our offer of full supply chain transparency through our PCMS to be one of the top reasons for joining.”
About the U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol
In a period of ever greater supply chain scrutiny and a growing demand for transparency, the U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol sets a new standard for more sustainably grown cotton. Aligned with the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals, the Trust Protocol brings quantifiable and verifiable goals and measurement to more sustainable cotton production and drives continuous improvement in six key sustainability metrics – land use, soil carbon, water management, soil loss, greenhouse gas emissions, and energy efficiency.
The Trust Protocol underpins and verifies U.S. cotton’s sustainability progress through sophisticated data collection and independent third-party verification. Choosing the Trust Protocol cotton will provide brands and retailers the critical assurances they need that the cotton fiber element of their supply chain is more sustainably grown with lower environmental and social risk.
Launched in the summer of 2020, the Trust Protocol is voluntary for U.S. cotton producers and allows us to report on six key sustainability metrics from the farm-level. Firmly rooted in their established principles of continuous improvement, this initiative will help drive all U.S. cotton production toward their 2025 sustainability targets and beyond.