Frequently Asked Questions

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By joining the U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol®, the member can start buying credits and buy Trust Protocol cotton

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Through a combination of a unique credit accounting system and the Permanent Bale Identification (PBI) system, The Trust Protocol helps ensure the commitments behind our cotton. The Trust Protocol credit system is based on actual bales harvested. Each credit is directly tied to the Trust Protocol bale through the bale’s Permanent Bale Identification. 

U.S. cotton growers lead the world in responsibly produced cotton. Through the Cotton LEADSSM program, which is a national-level program representing all U.S. cotton growers, the U.S. cotton industry organizations and growers communicate the advancements, commitment, and responsible production efforts to more than 650 retailer, brand, and manufacturer partners in more than 30 countries. For manufacturers, brands, and retailers, membership in the U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol offers an additional, enhanced way to measure and verify the U.S. cotton in their supply chain.

The Trust Protocol is a complement to the Better Cotton Initiative. We share the same goals of better sustainability practices for cotton production. The Trust Protocol is focused on U.S. cotton and is specific to the U.S. industry, which is grown at scale. The U.S. cotton industry is the only cotton-producing country that requires a unique identification number be assigned to every bale of cotton. That Permanent Bale Identification (PBI) number provides retailers and brands with the ability to track U.S. cotton throughout the supply chain (provided they have a chain of custody or tracking system in place).

We believe that cotton produced by Trust Protocol members is representative of U.S. cotton. Brands and retailers that are members of the Trust Protocol purchase cotton with sustainability credentials proven via Field to Market: The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture, measured via the Fieldprint® Calculator and verified through Control Union Certifications.  

Initially, Trust Protocol members will have access to aggregate sustainability metrics based on self-assessment questionnaires of participating producers. In addition, members will receive customized reporting based on national environmental metrics for key sustainability indicators. Field to Market released their latest Market Indicators report on the entire agriculture supply chain including cotton in December 2016. The next Field to Market report is expected in December 2021.  

Longer term, as enrollment in the Trust Protocol grows with multiple years of data, aggregate, year over year Fieldprint data derived from Trust Protocol participant growers can be provided to member companies. 

In addition, 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 programs worldwide, including working as a key partner in the early development and piloting phases of Field to Market’s Impact Claim Verification Protocol. CUC has also worked with the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) on its third-party verification programs in multiple countries.

Finally, buying Trust Protocol cotton helps increase the overall demand globally for responsibly grown cotton. That demand will serve to enable further advancements in sustainability practices and the adoption of those practices globally.

The membership fees paid by retailers and brands to gain access to Trust Protocol cotton will be used to partially offset operating costs. Operating costs include the creation and management of the digital platform, grower, retailer, and brand awareness and recruitment, sharing of sustainability and production optimization-related best practices, grower acreage and sustainability database management, third-party data verification, and most notably for our retailer and brand partners, the Trust Protocol will be publishing data-backed, third-party verified sustainability information regarding U.S. Trust cotton for raw materials sourcing verification and sustainability reporting purposes.

The Trust Protocol will also use program funds to develop educational materials to help drive grower progress toward achieving five discreet sustainability objectives that involve continuous improvement advances by grower members. 

Choosing Trust Protocol cotton will give 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. Brands and retailers will gain access to U.S. cotton with sustainability credentials proven via Field to Market, measured via the Field Calculator and verified with Control Union Certification. 

Membership of the Trust Protocol will provide brands and retailers with:

  • Quantifiable and verifiable goals and measurement against more sustainable cotton production
  • Data from Trust Protocol growers through the detailed questionnaire of production/labor practices and metrics from our data partner Field to Market: The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture that will track progress towards industry goals and commitments and third-party verification via Control Union
  • The right to receive and claim volume-linked credits from the Trust Protocol database
  • Company logo on the U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol® website with up to 500-word profile of company’s sustainability commitment; Up to 5-minute video profile of company’s sustainability commitment; Promotion across U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol® social channels; Identified as U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol® Partner
  • Use of the U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol® logo specifically identifying Company as Partner for use on company website, company advertising, social media
  • U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol® digital brochure and artwork
  • U.S. Cotton Trust communications toolkit to support sustainability and traceability storytelling to shareholders, employees and customers, including custom content for your annual report
  • Regular email updates of U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol® and related news
  • Longer term, members can receive aggregate, year over year data based on the Fieldprint results for participating growers

Trust Protocol metrics can be used for sustainability reporting, ESG audits and GRI standards reporting purposes among others. By way of example, Trust Protocol data could be used by a member to help document progress toward achieving certain science-based sustainability targets and/or in meeting the member’s commitments or contributions toward the United Nation’s Sustainability Development Goals.

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