Trust Protocol Helps Widen Sustainability’s Footprint to Consumers

As the U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol moved from pilot stage to fully active program, brands and retailers are now able to join in to access data to help them better measure progress towards meeting their own sustainability commitments.

Launched in 2019, the U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol is a new system for responsibly grown cotton that will provide annual data for six areas of sustainability in line with the U.N. Sustainability Goals. Roughly 300 U.S. cotton growers participated in the Protocol’s pilot program, with the goal of having 500 growers enrolled by the end of 2020.


The Trust Protocol verifies sustainability progress through sophisticated data collection and independent third-party verification, allowing brands and retailers to better track the cotton entering their supply chain. By joining the Protocol, brands will have access to aggregate year-over-year data on water use, greenhouse gas emissions, energy use, soil carbon and land use efficiency.

The Trust Protocol complements existing sustainability programs and is designed to fit the unique cotton mass-growing environment of the United States. “We are engaged in an open dialogue with existing standards in the cotton industry, and are open to exploring future collaboration,” said Ken Burton, Trust Protocol Executive Director.

In April, the Trust Protocol was added to Textile Exchange’s Material Change Index program – a list of 36 preferred fibers and materials that more than 170 participating brands and retailers can select from.

Why Is This Important?

A recent global survey conducted by the Trust Protocol shows that apparel and textile leaders believe consumer demand for sustainability efforts has grown during COVID-19 and could possibly impact customer loyalty.

Survey results show that 54% of respondents say they’ve seen customer demand for environmentally sustainable practices and products increase since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, but 59% said they believe customers will still prioritize price when making purchases.

Respondents from North America, Europe and Asia are strongly represented in the research and the results reflect a broad range of textile products including home goods, footwear, accessories, fabrics and apparel.

The survey also showed that 43% of respondents believe COVID-19 has had a positive impact on investments in sustainability efforts during this period, while 40% believe it has had a negative impact. They also believe their customers are facing the same struggle between their pocketbooks and the environmental concerns. When asked to rank how they believe customers will prioritize their purchases in the next year, respondents ranked the top two priorities as “Getting the best possible deal” and “Brand or retailer alignment with their personal values.”

“It’s clear that COVID-19 has caused economic challenges up and down the supply chain, but this survey shows that companies and their customers remain focused on sustainability,” said Dr. Gary Adams, president of the U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol.

“As we enter recovery in many countries, systems like the Trust Protocol will be more important than ever so brands can have the data they need to show they are meeting their science-based targets,” he added.

U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol sponsored the online survey, conducted from June 21-July 5, 2020, among 138 senior executives from eight global markets involved in or fully in charge of sustainability decision-making at their company.