Tracing the Cotton Supply Chain

Issues Child Labor Health Safety & Environment

Cotton is a commodity used across the apparel industry – clothing, footwear, headwear, etc. Concerns in the cotton production sector include child labor, worker health and safety due to the use of pesticides, and other violations of human, labor, or environmental rights. In some countries, state-sanctioned forced child labor is used to pick cotton. Apparel companies leading the CSR movement need to broaden their focus and examine the sourcing of raw materials to make sure that their factories are not using “dirty” cotton, tainted with violations of worker rights. FLA offers a staged process that takes issues one by one, risk by risk, starting with tracing the cotton that apparel brands use in their supply chain.

The Cotton Project addresses three particular challenges presently facing the producers of cotton goods and:

  • Identifies the origin of the cotton used in their products;
  • Transparently traces that cotton along the entire supply chain;
  • Identifies and addresses labor rights risks inherent to the cotton production and its supply chain.

The initial phase of the Cotton Project will map the supply chain by tracing the cotton goods from cut and sew to fabric mill, cotton gin, cotton production, and production of cottonseeds. Two supply chains (one organic and one conventional) will be mapped in the pilot stage. Once brands are able to trace their cotton sources, they can begin monitoring working conditions across the supply chain. It is anticipated that covering the entire supply chain will take several years, except in those instances where the violations of labor standards and remediation are well documented.