The US Cotton Trust Protocol’s 2023 annual report revealed that its grower membership tripled in 2020, with 975 growers representing nearly a quarter (23%) of all US cotton acreage. The US Cotton Trust Protocol, a benchmark for cotton produced sustainably, documented ongoing advancements in each of the six land use metrics: energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, soil carbon, conservation of soil, and water efficiency.
According to the Trust Protocol’s 2023 annual report, since 2015 baseline figures the organization has seen 79% reduction in soil loss, with yields 12% greater than the national average. Besides, 83% of growers reporting a positive soil carbon index, enhanced 14% of water use efficiency. Accordingly, green-house gas emissions cut by more than a fifth (21%), and 27% reduction in energy use. The Trust Protocol’s Annual Report also includes key metrics on progress in regenerative agriculture using Field to Market methodology.
The regenerative practices reported include cover cropping; minimal or no-tillage methods; promoting biodiversity; rotational farming; precision agriculture techniques; Integrated Pest Management; and using inputs tailored to specific landscape conditions.
Additionally, the US Cotton Trust Protocol explained that the tripling of enrolled growers brings significant implications for data interpretation which means more participating growers contribute to a larger data set which impacts the statistical significance of the findings.
It also noted that the diversity of practices with a large and broader group of growers means there is a greater representation of farming practices, regions, conditions, which in turn helps improve data interpretation and allows for benchmarking.
Commenting on the results, U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol’s Executive Director Daren Abney said, “I’m greatly encouraged by the continued progress, and not least by the exponential growth in enrolled planted cotton acres. Accurate data collection sets the stage for appropriate decisions for brands and retailers, where they can claim how much water has been saved or how many greenhouse gas emissions have been reduced. Today’s data demonstrates how Protocol growers continue to improve in their environmental performance, year on year. We do not have a final destination: our journey is one of continuous improvement in the pursuit of excellence.”
The U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol is a voluntary, farm level science-based sustainability program that is setting a new standard for delivering value to all stakeholders across the entire supply chain from farms to finished products. It is the only system that provides quantifiable, verifiable goals and measurement and drives continuous improvement in six key sustainability metrics – land use, soil carbon, water management, soil loss, greenhouse gas emissions, and energy efficiency.
It is also the world’s first sustainable cotton fiber program to offer article-level supply chain transparency to all members. The Trust Protocol is overseen by a multi-stakeholder Board of Directors comprised of representatives from brands and retailers, civil society, and independent sustainability experts as well as the cotton-growing industry, including growers, ginners, merchants, wholesalers and cooperatives, mills, and cottonseed handlers.