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Better Cotton trials traceability solutions across Indian supply chains

By Cenia Zitter


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Image: Cotton: Credit: Better Cotton.

The non-profit organisation Better Cotton is trialling a pilot program, implementing different innovative traceability technologies in order to determine the best way to ensure transparency across cotton supply chains.

To develop better digital traceability and conclude the potential of each solution, the initiative partnered up withRetraced, Textile Genesis, Haelixa and Tailorlux.

In the frame of the program, Better Cotton will modify its Chain of Custody (CoC) model, which works with the concept of “mass balance”, a volume tracking system. The resulting improved physical traceability will help to verify the origin of certified materials more precisely.

While ensuring that the quantity of Better Cotton sold never exceeds the quantity produced, mass balancing enables dealers or spinners throughout the supply chain to substitute or mix Better Cotton with regular cotton.

The project is carried out in partnership with brands and retailers, including C&A, Marks & Spencer, Target and Walmart and uses each technology to see the cotton’s journey through the companies’ supply chains.

The efficacy of both digital and physical traceability solutions is being evaluated in discrete cotton supply chains, and the findings will guide the expanded course of Better Cotton's traceability program.

Alan McClay, CEO of Better Cotton said in the press release: “After consulting with our members across the supply chain and getting to grips with their needs and pain points, we’ve taken those learnings and tested solutions in India to bring traceable Better Cotton to life. What we’ve found is helping us to prepare to offer a scalable new system to our members as early as this year.”

As a trial country India had been chosen, as it is one of the largest Better Cotton producers, with over one million farmers harvesting it. Until now, it has been challenging to create good transparency of the raw material's travels, as domestic supply chains are highly complex and more scattered in this country compared to other regions.

The pilot program is partially supported by the Verité Streams Project, a traceability project funded by the US Department of Labor.

The project helps both members and also farmers who use sustainable agricultural techniques. This way they can continue to access markets that are becoming more regulated.

“Since 2021, we have been proud partners working with Better Cotton to improve cotton farming globally. We’re delighted to be building on our partnership and trialling innovative new traceability solutions in India’s cotton supply chains, in order to revolutionise the wider industry,” added Marks & Spencer’s head of materials and sustainability, Katharine Beacham.

Better Cotton
Supply Chain