Global Market Report: Cotton prices and sustainability

This report presents and analyzes the sustainable production and consumption trends in the global cotton sector and includes a detailed exploration of how adopting voluntary sustainability standards (VSSs) can affect prices and farmer incomes.

By Vivek Voora, Steffany Bermúdez, Cristina Larrea, Johanna Joy Farrell, Erika Luna on January 11, 2023

From the clothes we wear to critical medical equipment, cotton is the most widely used natural fibre in the textile industry today, accounting for almost one quarter of all fibres manufactured worldwide.

Cultivating cotton provides livelihoods for 100 million households, of which 90% are in lower-income countries. An additional 350 million people support cotton production and basic processing by working in transportation, ginning, baling, and storage. Voluntary sustainability standards (VSSs) emerged in the cotton sector more than 20 years ago to help address social and environmental challenges in the sector. As of 2019, VSS-compliant cotton accounted for at least 25% of global production. This IISD report shows that VSS compliance can help cotton producers build resilience to climate change by conserving water, protecting soil health, and adapting to climate change. In many cases, farmers that adhere to VSSs can also benefit from higher prices and incomes when compared to those growing conventionally produced cotton.