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A new study from Rank a Brand has found 29 of the largest corporate cotton purchasers are failing to adopt sustainable cotton policies, despite an increase in available supply over the past several years. The report estimates that 10-13 per cent of the global cotton supply can now be classified as “more sustainable.” The Sustainable Cotton Ranking, commissioned by WWF, Solidaridad and the Pesticide Action Network, evaluated corporate performance based on their policies, traceability, and sourcing and use.

“IKEA, C&A and H&M are showing how cotton sustainability is good for business but many top companies are failing to deliver,” Richard Holland, director of market transformation at WWF, said in a statement. “Sourcing more sustainable cotton has never been easier so there is no excuse for companies not to offer more responsible products to customers.”

Cotton farming is extremely water-intensive, putting strain on limited water supplies in semi-arid locations around the world. The WWF calculates that 20,000 litres is needed to produce one kilogram of cotton, a process often magnified by the ecological impact of pesticide and fertilizer use. There are also a number of social concerns related to cotton production, including well-documented reports of forced labour and child labour in countries like Uzbekistan.

The report recommends that corporate laggards push their suppliers to join reputable sustainability programs, increase the sourcing of sustainable cotton, provide greater transparency regarding their supply chains and strengthen company-wide disclosure practices.

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