Cotton produced in accordance with voluntary sustainability standards (VSSs) globally saw a 39% to 40% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) between 2008 and 2019, according to a report by International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD). In 2019, about 92% of VSS-compliant cotton came from Asia, led by India, China, and Turkey.
Cotton compliance with VSSs accounted for at least 14.1% of total cotton production in 2016. Consumers and companies across the planet are increasingly choosing cotton produced in accordance with VSSs, such as Better Cotton or Cotton made in Africa, as per IISD’s ‘Global Market Report: Cotton Prices and Sustainability.’
Top cotton brands and companies reported that 85%, or 720,000 tonnes, of their cotton, was more sustainably sourced (VSS-compliant, in transition, or recycled) in 2020, up 300,000 tonnes from 2017.
Farmers can receive up to 50% higher prices and 20% higher crop incomes for VSS-compliant cotton compared to those selling conventional cotton, due to the increased quality and cost-efficient practices associated with compliance, the report further suggested.
Minimum prices and premiums associated with VSSs are still set below price levels in international markets or set by governments of producing countries.
“Sustainable cotton is in high demand as customers look to make responsible purchasing decisions and brands use sustainability to differentiate their products in the market,” said Vivek Voora, senior associate, IISD.
“Most of the demand is coming from Europe and North America. But awareness is rising in big developing and emerging markets that suggests the growth will continue.”