Developed over three years, the traceability solution promises to offer visibility into the journey of cotton through the supply chain for members of the Better Cotton Platform – operated by software company ChainPoint.

It provides member retailers and brands with confidence in sourcing products from a specific country, and greater supply chain visibility, allowing them to incorporate insights into their own supply chain due diligence activities.

With input from a diverse network of member retailers and brands including H&M Group, Marks & Spencer, Walmart, Target, Bestseller, Gap Inc. and C&A, Better Cotton has crafted a solution that aligns with emerging regulations and industry expectations.

“At M&S, 100% of the cotton we source for our clothing comes from more responsible sources, however, across the industry the global supply chain remains particularly complex,” said Katharine Beacham, head of materials and sustainability at Marks & Spencer.

“Since 2021, we have been proud partners working with Better Cotton to improve the traceability of cotton and we’re delighted to be able to be part of this first-of-its-kind solution which will enable us to track our cotton at scale along the supply chain.”

Future aspects and developments of the traceability solution include:

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  • Using it as the foundation for an impact marketplace that would compensate farmers for field-level progress,
  • Enable country-level Life Cycle Assessments (LCAs) to calculate the environmental impact of Better Cotton concerning conventional cotton,
  • Provide credible consumer and business-facing claims.

Traceable Better Cotton, as defined by Better Cotton, refers to the physical cotton within a product that has been tracked throughout the supply chain.

This approach is said to differ from Better Cotton’s longstanding methods, including its Mass Balance Chain of Custody model – which tracks the volume of cotton produced by never exceeding the volume sold – by providing visibility that spans from the ginning stage to the retailer or brand.

To ensure compliance and integrity, Better Cotton introduced a Chain of Custody Standard earlier this year, outlining requirements for suppliers trading traceable cotton.

Alan McClay, CEO of Better Cotton, emphasised the transformative potential of traceability within the industry, stating: “Traceability at scale for cotton will drive a seismic shift within our industry’s supply chains. Better Cotton’s traceability solution is poised to help the industry deliver that shift.

“Never before has transparency been as imperative as it is now to our retail and brand members.”

Today (11 April), an investigation by non-profit organisation Earthsight found cotton linked to illegal deforestation, land grabbing and violence against local communities was being sold by retailers including H&M and Inditex-owned Zara. The investigators also allege that some of the cotton in question was certified as ‘sustainable’ by Better Cotton.