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What if certification schemes like Better Cotton appear to have deep flaws?


Large retailers have corresponding social and environmental responsibilities. They have due diligence obligations and need to know what is happening in their supply chains. Often (part of) the work related to this responsibility is delegated to third party certifiers. An example of such a third party certifier is Better Cotton. They oversee the auditing of farmers against the Better Cotton sustainability standards, as well as the auditing of the supply chain. Consumers, companies and governments are supposed to trust these certifications. What if it turns out that certification schemes, like Better Cotton, appear to have deep flaws?

This week fashion retailers like Zara and H&M are being linked to environmental destruction and land grabbing in Brazil, according to research by the British NGO Earthsight. The research specifically points to the use of cotton from the Cerrado natural area, where large-scale deforestation is occurring. This deforestation, which increased by 43 percent last year, threatens biodiversity and contributes to CO2 emissions. The damage is primarily attributed to cotton plantations in the area, with two major companies accused of illegally destroying the forest. Additionally, there are reports of land grabbing and violence against the local population in the Cerrado, with families forced to flee due to threats and violence.

The researchers traced deliveries of hundreds of thousands of tonnes of cotton from the Cerrado. The cotton was shipped from Brazil to factories in Asia. Those manufacturers in turn supplied Zara, H&M and subsidiaries. Annually, this amounts to 250 million garments and textiles. 

For our customers this means that we encourage them to asking critical questions inspite of ‘beautiful’ certificates. After all, certification is based on a reasonable evaluation of the products or processes in the market and is never 100%. But it’s currently one of the best ways to show serious endeavour to improve the situation in the supply chain.

Read the comprehensive article and conclusions here:; it includes responses from all involved companies. Read the full statement from Better Cotton here: A consequence of developments like these might be that cotton will be added as a commodity to the EU Deforestation Regulation (EUDR), read more about the EUDR on ProductIPedia.

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