Wrangler plans to expand a pilot program to boost the supply of more responsible cotton in the U.S., the company announced during the Sustainable Brands conference in Detroit this week.

The program started with an Alabama cotton farmer last year, and Wrangler aims to expand the initiative to all American farmers within its supply chain.

Moves like this are important as cotton has long exacted one of the largest environmental footprints on the planet. WWF estimates that only 2.4 percent of the world’s farmland is planted with cotton, but the crop accounts for 24 percent of worldwide sales of pesticides. Then there is the water footprint: WWF suggests it takes almost 5,300 gallons (20,000 liters) of water to produce the 1.6 pounds (or 1 kilo) of cotton needed to make a T-shirt and a pair of jeans.

Wrangler’s announcement follows up previous efforts, including a drive to increase the supply of fiber certified by the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI). The North Carolina-based company says it has invested about half a million dollars as a fast-track member of BCI since 2013 in order to boost supplies from China.

But at a time when the political climate is imposing pressure on American companies to source and make more goods in the U.S., Wrangler’s program sends cotton farmers a signal that they can depend on a steady stream of business while showing that their operations can become even more sustainable. And the fashion industry is hardly immune from these trends

Wrangler says it sources about half of its cotton from U.S. farming operations. And although American cotton farmers are generally far more environmentally responsible than their peers overseas, there is always room for improvement. To that end, Wrangler’s partnership with farmers will include a focus on soil health -- including research on the best way to implement and expand no-till farming, crop rotation and cover cropping.

More apparel companies are jumping on the sustainability bandwagon as they grapple with the reality that more consumers want more environmentally responsible products – without having to pay a premium.

Fast fashion brands, including H&M, were among the first companies to increase global supplies of sustainable cotton. The German athletic apparel giant Adidas is also a leader on this front, surpassing its BCI sourcing goals two years ago. Last year Timberland, which along with Wrangler is owned by VF Corp., pledged to source all of its cotton from BCI-certified, organic, or American farms by 2020. And Gap, Inc. announced its own set of 2020 cotton sourcing goals last month.

Image credit: Wrangler

Published earlier today on Triple Pundit.

Cotton, organic cotton, sustainable cotton, fashion, Better Cotton Initiative, Leon Kaye, fashion, Wrangler, VF Corporation, Sustainable Brands, agriculture, farming

These Alabama farmers will work with Wranger to boost supplies of more responsible cotton

About The Author

Leon Kaye

Leon Kaye is the founder and editor of GreenGoPost.com. Based in California, he specializes in social media consulting and strategic communications. A journalist and writer since 2009, his work has appeared on Triple Pundit , The Guardian's Sustainable Business site and has appeared on Inhabitat and Earth911. His focus is making the business case for sustainability and corporate social responsibility. Areas of interest include the <a Middle East, sustainable development in The Balkans, Brazil and Korea. He was a new media journalism fellow at the International Reporting Project, for which he covered child survival in India during February 2013. Contact him at leon@greengopost.com. You can also reach out via Twitter (Leon Kaye) and Instagram (GreenGoPost). Since 2013, he has spent much of his time in Abu Dhabi, UAE, working with Masdar, the emirate's renewable energy company. He lives in Fresno, California.