There are some trends in the marketplace - many related to advancing corporate responsibility and sustainability -that will likely lead to increased governance expectations of brands and industries. Some of these new expectations will require additional standards, processes, reporting requirements, and systems. The cotton industry could help shape the solutions to optimize benefits to the industry. If done correctly, these changes could level the playing field for all actors, increase efficiencies, improve coordination, and improve knowledge sharing along the chain.
A snapshot of a few trends related to voluntary stards and their potential benefit to the industry is provided below.
Voluntary sustainability standards: Voluntary standards are expanding, requiring new processes, systems, mechanisms and controls to limit fraud and improve enforcement. These systems could level the playing field, and improve coordination and efficiencies in the value chain if a solid governance program is in place.
Traceability: Consumers and brands are increasing their scrutiny of the conditions under which the cotton in their products was grown and processes and chemicals used in its production. This presents the cotton industry with an opportunity to develop systems that could provide additional benefits (e.g. more precise management of resources, products).
Transparency: The shift towards more transparency along the cotton value chain is on the rise. Yet, it is important to allow industry actors to protect proprietary information. It may be beneficial for the industry to engage with standards and systems development teams to design a system that meets stakeholder requirements and protects proprietary information. This system will require robust procedures and controls.
Metrics: The importance of credible and standardized metrics as a means of defining and assessing sustainability criteria is widely recognized. The industry has an opportunity to facilitate comparable and conforming metrics collection, analysis and reporting across all supply chain nodes and geographic regions.
Marketing/product labeling: As consumers' support for sustainable products increases, it is in the cotton industry's best interest to maintain the credibility of authentic claims and minimize fraud in labeling and marketing statements.
Would the industry benefit from the development of standards, systems, and mechanisms that improves knowledge collection, tracking, and reporting?
If so, how should they participate in the design and development of these elements?
Should the industry develop governance policies, manuals or other mandates or resources to improve the integrity of systems and mechanisms?