Cotton supply chain urged to help reduce water footprint

More support is needed for smallholder cotton farmers in the developing world as they grapple with the effects of water scarcity which could put the global cotton industry at serious risk.

That’s according to social enterprise Cotton Connect, which is calling for the cotton supply chain to increase farmer training to increase yields and reduce the water footprint in cotton growing regions such as India, Pakistan and West Africa.

Cotton Connect has today (29 August) released a report entitled ‘More Crop Per Drop: Water Report on the Cotton Industry’, which reveals that big global brands need to provide more support for smallholder farmers in the developing world, where over 100 million farmers are responsible for 90% of the world’s cotton production.

“Brands selling cotton clothes and homeware products are reliant on a supply chain which is facing severe climate change impacts and water shortages,” said CottonConnect’s chief executive Alison Ward. “It is in their interest to work closely with organisations that can influence cotton farmers in conserving and making better use of the water they have.

“Failure to connect all parts of this supply chain will put the future of cotton at risk.”

Call to action

The report issues asks brands to: –

  • Map and ensure greater transparency and closer relationships across the supply chain; 
  • Support farmer training programmes for basic interventions to reduce water footprints; 
  • Collaborate and help to fund initiatives to help drive cotton supply chain sustainability at scale. 

CottonConnect has already collaborated with major brands, including John Lewis, the C&A Foundation and the Better Cotton Initiative, to help improve relationships with farmers on the ground.

Business benefits

John Lewis has launched a three-year farmer training programme with CottonConnect, which is designed to improve the retailer’s relationship with suppliers and increase the traceability of its products. In total, 1,500 farmers will be trained, giving the John Lewis buying team a full understanding of exactly where their cotton comes from.

The firm’s head of sustainability and responsible sourcing Stephen Cawley said: “The engagement brings benefits to the brand – we are helping to ensure security of supply, traceability to the fibre source, as well as having a positive impact on the social and environmental conditions of the farmers in India – which is crucial when such a large part of our manufacturing supply chain is based in that part of the world.”

The release of ConntonConnect’s report coincides with the launch of World Water Week which kicks off today in Stockholm. The initiative puts the global water debate firmly in the spotlight, with major global corporates helping to raise the profile of today’s most pressing water challenges.

REPORT: Maximising water efficiency in the cotton industry

Luke Nicholls

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