Called Cotton LEADS, the program is aimed at textile brands, retailers and manufacturers committed to sourcing cotton that is grown in a responsible and transparent manner.
Validating the Cotton LEADS program are the national-level oversight, regulatory enforcement, and transparency of practices common to both countries. Combined, Australia and the United States account for roughly 17% of global cotton production.
“Cotton LEADS is designed to assist businesses along the cotton supply chain with their sustainability goals,” says Berrye Worsham, President and CEO of Cotton Incorporated.
“Apparel brands, retailers and manufacturers require large volumes and a reliable supply of responsibly-produced fibre, as well as proof of responsible production. Through Cotton LEADS we demonstrate how cotton grown in the United States and Australia can help meet these requirements.”
Cotton Australia CEO, Adam Kay, says: “Cotton producers in Australia and the US pioneered practices that have resulted in impressive, country-wide environmental gains.”
“Both countries approach improvement on a national level. This includes national reporting and regulatory enforcement, but also facilitates the national implementation of best practices and the ability to collect data on a national level.”
Cotton LEADS is a complement to many of the farm-by-farm certification programs that have appeared in recent years.
Termed ‘identity cottons’ by the International Cotton Advisory Committee, the goals of these programs and Cotton LEADS are parallel, according to Worsham.
“Ultimately, we are all committed to providing the supply chain with greater volumes of responsibly-grown cotton, to ongoing improvement, and to the transparency of processes and metrics,” Worsham says.
The Cotton LEADS program is founded on five core principles:
COMMITMENT to the social, environmental, economic, and regulatory factors to produce world-class cotton.
RECOGNITION that sustainable and responsible cotton production requires continual improvement, investment, research, and sharing of best practices information among growers and industry.
UNDERSTANDING that leading change in a responsible and sustainable cotton practices will have the most positive impact when implemented in collaboration with farm, regional, national and international programs.
BELIEF in the benefit of working cooperatively with similar programs that seek to advance responsible and sustainable cotton production in an effort to keep global cotton competitive in world fiber markets.
CONFIDENCE in a cotton identification system that ensures traceability from farm to manufacturer.
The National Cotton Council of America and its export promotion program, Cotton Council International, join Cotton Australia and Cotton Incorporated as founding members. Kevin Latner, Executive Director of Cotton Council International, says: “Users of Australian and US cotton can take confidence in these core principles, which are built upon a track record of responsible production practices and a commitment to continuing improvement.”
Cotton LEADS currently has two member nations, Australia and the United States. A committee comprised of three members from each member nation, and two members from partnering industry organisations, will guide activities and the use of program funds.
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