Frequently Asked Questions

General Information About the U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol

The U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol is a cotton production assessment system established by U.S. cotton producers and industry organizations to provide a mechanism by which U.S. cotton producers can assess and verify their current production practices and measure their progress toward long-term sustainability goals. The Trust Protocol will be managed and implemented by a single member LLC governed by producers, brands/retailers, conservation and wildlife civil societies, ginners, merchants, cooperatives, textile manufacturers, cottonseed crushers/handlers, and cotton warehouses.

The U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol is being created to enable U.S. cotton producers and industry organizations to demonstrate their commitment to more sustainable cotton production and their progress toward long-term environmental improvement, thereby meeting the sustainability goals of downstream users of U.S. cotton.

The industry recognized that for U.S. cotton to be the supplier of choice for many global brands and retailers, as well as meet the needs of the consumers, it needed to verify existing production systems and practices and establish long-term environmental goals. This program is designed to meet those needs, while showcasing U.S. cotton’s story of continuous improvement. It also charts a path to meet the industry’s 2025 sustainability goals.

U.S. cotton producers will enroll their farm operation in the U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol by –
  1. Completing a series of questions about their current farming operation and methods (self-assessment); and
  2. Providing field-level data concerning production practices for a specific percentage of their farming operation (Data Tool).
The Protocol will utilize a second-party and third-party independent verification system to validate the Producer’s self-assessment responses and the use of a Data Tool for field-level data. Cotton produced on operations enrolled in the U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol will be deemed to be “Protocol Cotton.”  Data provided through the self-assessment and Data Tool will be aggregated and utilized to measure the industry’s progress toward its long-term sustainability goals.
U.S. cotton producers and industry organizations have established several environmental targets intended to be achieved over the next 10 years:
  • Increase soil carbon by 30%
  • Increase land use efficiency by 13%
  • Decrease greenhouse gas emissions by 39%
  • Decrease soil loss per acre by 50%
  • Decrease water use by 18%
  • Decrease energy use by 15%

The Trust Protocol has adopted the United Nations’ definition of sustainability, as follows:

To meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

No. The goal is for the entire U.S. cotton production system to be more sustainable tomorrow than it is today. Enrollment allows the Trust Protocol to evaluate existing producer practices and ensure the U.S. industry moves toward more sustainable practices over time. Continuous improvement is the journey as sustainability is a process that will change as new technology and information become available.

Brands, retailers and users of cotton are establishing sustainability goals that are both short-term and long-term. There are 38 major Brands/Retailers who have pledged to achieve 100% sustainable cotton by 2025 or sooner. This number will grow.

Consumers are demanding more information about the products they buy. Wall Street makes investment decisions based on environmental and social governance audits from companies, and their supply chains must comply or be left behind. It is essential that U.S. cotton provide high-quality, trusted data to meet the supply chain’s needs.

Aggregated data from the U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol will provide downstream users of cotton with metrics for meeting their sustainable development goals. Data from the Data Tools utilized in the Trust Protocol will give producers the information that can increase their resource efficiency, lower their cost of production, support their economic sustainability and ensure downstream customers that U.S. cotton is sustainably produced.

Downstream Users of Cotton

The Trust Protocol’s IT platform will allow for the creation of electronic credits based on actual bales harvested by participating producers. Those electronic credits can be transferred between merchandisers, as well as between a merchandiser and a textile mill. The credits can also be transferred through the supply chain. Initially, the electronic credits will be handled in a mass balance approach, but the longer-term objective is to reach a critical mass of participating bales and maintain the linkage between the actual bale and the credit.