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Governance

Building resiliency in cotton production and apparel manufacturing regions

Climate change will have impacts in cotton production and processes. It will affect different regions and parts of the value chain differently.  Some regions and actors will be less able to respond or adapt to these impacts than others. The less capable communities' inability to respond to sudden or long-term climate change impacts may affect businesses up the supply chain through fewer or less predictable raw materials, interruptions in processing, reduced speed to market or more.  For example, what will be the impact to the industry when droughts prevent farmers from producing cotton in to producing regions?  If energy or water is rationed in suburban communities, will processors be able to produce goods on time? How will employees get to work/home should flooding occur? 

 It is possible for the cotton industry to prepare for climate change's impacts.  It would be wise for the indsutry to evaluate risks and identify priority concerns as well as opportunities to mitigate the most significant risks. An end buyer may want to identify and/or partner with strategic suppliers and local organizations to help strategic sourcing regions develop plans to sustain or adapt to climate change impacts as appropriate.

Climate change impacts

Climate change impacts affecting one segment of the supply chain can ultimately affect all segments of the cotton supply chain and its actors. Small-scale farmers are the most vulnerable supply chain actors, and their ability to adapt to climate change will be vital.  Yet, they are the least equipped to adapt.

Several regions and nodes of the cotton supply chain will be affected by climate change. For example, South and Southeast Asia (e.g., Bangladesh, Cambodia, Vietnam), key garment manufacturing regions for United States (US) apparel companies, are projected to experience greater frequency and intensity of floods and storms. Additionally, the IPCC projects that agricultural productivity will decline in sub-Saharan Africa and India, both of which are significant sources of cotton used in garment manufacturing.

Climate change will directly affect the cotton production stage of the supply chain as a result of changes in temperature, precipitation, and extreme events. Additionally, climate change will pose indirect impacts on the fabric mill, garment manufacturing, and consumer stages of the cotton supply chain through changes in the availability, timing, quality, and demand of water.  All of these impacts will likely be more severe in water stress regions.

Some areas most affected and various resilience-building opportunities for various segments of the chain include:

Farm

  • Advance research efforts directed toward developing countries, raising efficiencies, productivity, and crop quality
  • Promote better agricultural practices and use more appropriate varieties of seeds (e.g. drought tolerant)
  • Provide more affordable crop insurance

Process

  • Finance water/energy-efficient technology/equipment
  • Provide disaster aid and help communities develop disaster response plans
  • Promote water conservation and recycling through training and equipment upgrades

Consumer

  • Raise awareness of climate risks in developing countries amongst consumers
  • Facilitate consumers' contribution to resilience-building efforts

Questions

What steps are industry members taking to understand and respond to climate change impacts?

Should the cotton industry support knowledge sharing, best practices and technologies to address pending impact of climate change?

Can industry begin to help the most vulnerable develop resilience to climate change?

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