Cotton Coverage

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.

Cotton farming has a complex relationship to climate change. Cotton yields rise in concert with carbon dioxide levels, as it promotes photosynthesis and plant growth. But cotton plants also need specific temperatures and moisture levels to be productive, which could be disrupted by climate change.

Voluntary sustainability standards (VSSs) emerged in the cotton sector more than 20 years ago to help address social and environmental challenges in the sector.

Our research shows that growing VSS compliance can help cotton producers build resilience to climate change by conserving water, protecting soil health, and undertaking adaptation measures. And in many cases, farmers that adhere to VSSs can benefit from higher prices and incomes when compared to conventionally produced cotton.


Key Takeaways

More than 450 million people

Cotton production directly supports 100 million households in 75 countries and indirectly employs an additional 350 million people.

USD 3 billion to 5 billion

In 2019, at least 2.5 million farmers produced 6.24 to 6.46 million tonnes of VSS-compliant cotton lint with a farm gate value of USD 3 billion to 5 billion.

39% annual growth

Between 2008 and 2019, VSS-compliant cotton experienced a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 39% to 40%.

USD 1 trillion

Raw cotton underpins the global textile sector—it is estimated to be worth nearly USD 1 trillion and growing.