21. July 2020 / U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol: U.S. Cotton sector wants to be in the lead toward sustainability

Dr Gary Adams

Interview with Dr Gary Adams, President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Cotton Council: The U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol is a cotton production assessment system recently established by U.S. cotton producers and industry organizations to provide a mechanism by which U.S. cotton producers can assess and verify their current production practices and measure their progress toward long-term sustainability goals.

Dr Gary Adams is President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Cotton Council, the central organization for the U.S. cotton industry that represents all seven industry segments. In the interview with the Bremen Cotton Report he explains the foundation, the aims and future plans of the U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol.

Please explain in a few words what the U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol is.

Dr Gary Adams: The U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol underpins and verifies U.S. Cotton’s sustainability progress through sophisticated data collection and independent third-party verification. It brings quantifiable and verifiable goals and measurement to sustainable cotton production and drives continuous improvement in key sustainability metrics. Choosing the U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol gives brands and retailers the critical assurances they need that the cotton fiber element of their supply chain is more sustainably grown with lower environmental and social risk.

How does the U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol work?

Each Trust Protocol member acquires our cotton and receives credits representing each kilogram of cotton fiber purchased under the program.

Each credit is deposited into the grower’s Protocol “bank account” and is applied to the bale it is assigned to through an Electronic Warehouse Receipt-directly tied to PBI for that particular cotton bale.

Subsequent sales of Trust Protocol cotton will result in parties transferring the appropriate number of credits from their Trust Protocol “bank” account to account of the respective buyer.

Once an end user (brand or retail partner) has possession of a Trust Protocol credit, tat credit I considered consumed and is no longer transferable.

Why did you found this particular project?

The demand for sustainable cotton is growing and while there are already several sustainable cotton options available, no existing initiative is built for the unique needs of U.S. cotton. The U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol complements existing initiatives and responds to requests from growers, as well as brands and retailers from around the world to have a program verifying U.S. cotton’s sustainability progress through sophisticated data collection and independent third-party verification. Over the years, the U.S. cotton industry has already made impressive improvements. The Trust Protocol collaborates with agricultural data experts Field to Market to collect year-on-year data across several metrics. Progress is verified through independent certification company Control Union Certifications. That’s one of the things that makes the Trust Protocol unique – the level of data provided which enable our members to demonstrate their progress towards their own sustainability commitments. It is clear that the U.S. needed a protocol that has validated data and third-party verification. The U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol was developed to fill out the missing piece.

Sustainability is a focal point in the U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol. How do you define sustainability?

At the U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol, our collective goal is to increase awareness of the fact that U.S. cotton producers are growing responsibly and harnessing the latest industry innovations to offer quality, sustainably grown cotton. The U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol growers aim at protecting our ecosystem. Concretely, the U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol data could be used by a member to help document progress toward achieving certain science-based sustainability targets such as the ones defined by the United Nation’s Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs). These data will help them achieving their environmental commitments from managing better water consumption to maximise growers’ cotton production.

Is the entire U.S. cotton crop involved?

We believe that cotton produced by the U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol members is representative of U.S. cotton but to be a U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol grower they must enrol and provide details of their farming methods so we can measure and verify their continuous improvement.

What are the future plans of the Protocol?

The Trust Protocol estimates having up to 1 million bales from producers enrolled in the Trust Protocol for the 2020 crop and we anticipate increased production each year. The Trust Protocol’s objective is to have over 50 percent of all U.S. production, or 8 million bales in the program, by the 2025 growing/harvest season. Besides, the U.S. Trust Protocol wants to help U.S. growers to achieve their ambitious environmental goals for 2025. This includes improving land use efficiency by 13 percent, slashing down the soil lose by 50 percent, diminishing water use by 18 percent, increasing the soil carbon by 30 percent and cutting down by 39 percent GHG emission.

Thank you for the interview!

The interviews in the column “Question Time“ embody the opinion of the respective interview partner and do not represent the position of the Bremen Cotton Exchange as neutral, independent institution.

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