The panel has pulled together an initial £1 million tranche of funding. It will work with suppliers, NGOs and independent experts in supply chain assurance to develop an approach that meets the pressing needs of industry today.

Traceability within the cotton supply chain will soon become a market ‘must’ with legislators on both sides of the Atlantic moving to toughen rules. New rules presented this March by the European Commission aim to better protect consumers against false environmental claims and introduce a ban on greenwashing.

For example, sellers will not be allowed to put a sustainability label on their product if there is no certification or recognition by a public authority for it. It also prohibits sellers from making generic environmental claims such as ‘eco-friendly’ or ‘green’ if they cannot demonstrate environmental performance.

The Better Cotton Traceability Panel will address all aspects of the cotton supply chain, from farmers in the field through production to the consumer. Better Cotton has gathered input from more than 1,500 organisations so far that have made it clear that traceability is business-critical across the whole industry but also that retailers and brands need to integrate sustainability and traceability into their standard business practices.

Findings from this research highlighted that 84% indicated a business ‘need to know’ where the cotton in their products was grown. In fact, four in five suppliers surveyed sought the benefit of an enhanced traceability system. Currently only 15% of apparel companies claim to have full visibility of the raw materials that go into their products according to a recent study by KPMG.