How It Works

Full traceability from farm to laydown

Full transparency throughout the supply chain
  • The Protocol Credit System: At the gin, a unique credit for each kilogram of cotton ginned is issued. When the cotton is consumed by a brand or retailer, the credits are transferred along with the cotton to its new owner. Importantly, each credit is tied to the bale’s permanent identification number, enabling full transparency throughout the supply chain.
  • The Permanent Bale Identification System: The PBI system assigns a unique identification number and to every bale of ginned U.S. cotton, allowing fiber qualities to be tracked through a robust system that enhances U.S cotton fiber’s value to manufacturers globally. The connection to the PBI numbers also ensures that Protocol Credits are only generated upon actual yield, and never based upon estimates or anticipated volumes.

Trusted Third Party Verification

The Trust Protocol incorporates a comprehensive program of verification against Trust Protocol benchmarks, in the form of both second-party and independent third-party audits of grower performance through Control Union Certifications—the latter through allocated on-site visits. Control Union Certifications has certified over 150 industry standards programs worldwide, including working as a key partner in the early development and piloting phases of Field to Market’s Impact Claim Verification Protocol.

How does it work?

The Credit System

The Trust Protocol credits will be managed utilizing a “mass balance” record-keeping and audit structure. U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol® members will receive a credit for every kilogram of Trust Protocol cotton ordered.

  1. The Trust Protocol Uses a Credit System: The Trust Protocol’s IT-based platform allows for the creation of electronic credits for each kilogram of cotton ginned by Trust Protocol participant growers.
  2. Credits Correspond to Harvested Cotton: The Trust Protocol Credit System starts with the minting of credits, when a grower ships cotton to their gin, and the gin generates a PBI. These credits are then activated for consumption.
  3. Each credit is unique, and combined with the Permanent Baled ID (PBI) enables full transparency throughout the entire supply chain.
  1. Supply chain transparency: Purchase orders from Brands and Retailers are linked to the Protocol Tracking Ticket (PTT), which follows the purchase order throughout the supply chain. At each stage of this process, the purchase order is validated and quantity is measured and confirmed.  When Brands and Retailers receive their final products, the credits are consumed.
  2. The End-User Finalizes the Credit Transaction: Protocol Credits only ever exist in the Protocol Bank, and are never transferred to any other entity except at the end of the process when a Brand and Retail partner processes their claim.  Once a credit is consumed by an end-user such as a brand, that credit is non- transferable and cannot re-enter the Trust Protocol credit bank.
  3. Consumed Credits are Verified: Trust Protocol cotton end-users must verify through an audit process that it acquired sufficient U.S. cotton to cover the credits it acquired from the Trust Protocol credit bank.

Trusted Verification Methodologies

Second-Party Verification

The second-party verification process will start with an aggregator contacting the producer to notify them that second party verification is needed. The aggregator will also verify the self-assessment and use of the data tool during this time to ensure that second-party verification can proceed. Next, the second-party verifier will contact the producer to review the verification process and may request documentation.

The verification documents will be uploaded to the Protocol Dashboard and/or emailed to the second-party verifier. Electronic validation such as FaceTime, videos, and/or pictures will be allowed to the greatest extent possible. The use of technology to expedite the second party verification process is permitted and recommended.

A second-party verifier is a contracted specialist or representative of the aggregator who aids the grower in completing self-assessment and attests to the accuracy of information supplied. Twenty-five percent of producers from each region will be second party verified.

Additionally, second-party verification will:

  • Only be conducted by individuals who have successfully completed a common training program (1 day) such that their audits will be in accordance with a standard format agreed upon by all stakeholders; and
  • Be sufficiently robust such that third-party audits may be considered a redundant unnecessary expense to some brands/retailers.

Third-Party Verification

Further, if a grower is subject to a third-party audit and fails due to an issue that should have been addressed during the second-party verification process, the second-party verifier stands to lose their accreditation because of implied negligence of duty.

The third-party verification process will be initiated by the Trust Protocol by making contact with the member grower and the aggregator directly to notify them of being selected for a third-party verification visit. 

Verification documents can be uploaded to the Trust Protocol Dashboard and FaceTime, videos, and/or pictures will be allowed to expedite the verification process as necessary. Additionally, the third-party verifier may need to visit the farm if additional information is needed to complete the audit. All farm visits will occur after the harvest.