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As a natural, renewable and immensely flexible fiber in terms of its use, cotton is one of the world’s most important agricultural products. Farmers around the world jointly harvest 100 mil­lion tons of cotton every year to meet the growing market demand.

Unfortunately though, cotton production can be very polluting. As an example, about 10% of all agricul­tural chemicals used worldwide are processed by the cotton sector. The environmental damage, the high costs as well as the low farmers’ incomes rapidly increase the demand for sustainable cotton.

Ambitious goals

As a pioneer member, the adidas Group has been involved with the Better Cotton Initiative from the very beginning. Additionally, to further support and strengthen the implementation and success of the BCI, a consortium of market leading private and public organizations founded the Better Cotton Fast Track Program in 2010. The adidas Group is also one of the funding private partners of this group, which invests in farmer training projects around the world and initiates the procurement of the Better Cotton that is produced. The aim is that – by 2015 – Better Cotton farmers will be producing well over 1 million metric tons of Better Cotton.

To achieve our target of 100% sustainable cotton by 2018, we have set incremental annual targets for the quantity of ‘Better Cotton’ that will be used: 5% by 2012; 40% by 2015; 100% Sustainable Cotton by 2018.

Better Cotton

In 2012, we worked hard to connect the complex cotton supply chain, including cotton farms and ginners, to source Better Cotton. How did we do it?

Working very closely with the sourcing materials team, we selected those suppliers whose total cotton use to make adidas Group products is around 70% of the total adidas Group cotton consumption. We introduced them to the Better Cotton program, worked together to understand their supply chain and planned how to integrate Better Cotton into their products. Together with each supplier, we have agreed on annual targets and we have regularly tracked how much Better Cotton was consumed and used for adidas Group products.

With all the hard work and excitement, together with our supplier base, we hit our target of 5% in 2012. This will be a strong foundation going forward.

Involve the whole supply chain

Starting from 2014, we will bring more and more suppliers into the initiative to hit our future targets. It is critical to directly involve our suppliers in this journey and this is why they are becoming BCI members as well and are clear about the targets. Even though BCI was supported mainly by brands and retailers at the beginning, its success will come only if it is owned and supported by each member of the supply chain. This is an important message that we are all delivering to the industry.

Have a look at the infographic, summarizing our commitment to Better Cotton

Also, to know more about the adidas Group sourcing strategy, you can have a look at the recently published 2012 Sustainability Report.