Ralph Lauren’s foundation says it will invest $5m during the next five years to increase the production of sustainably grown cotton in the US.

The foundation’s pledge, set to be announced on Tuesday, is part of apparel companies’ broader efforts to boost the supply of environmentally friendly materials to help meet sustainability targets they have set for themselves. 

Ralph Lauren has said that by 2025 it will source cotton and other key materials sustainably. Globally, though, less than 1% of cotton is certified as organic and there is also a need to increase supply of other types of sustainably grown cotton, said Halide Alagoz, chief product and sustainability officer at Ralph Lauren.

“That’s why all of us have to lean into creating further capacities for sustainable cotton,” she said. “We hope there will be other companies joining us.”

The $5m pledge will be used to launch the US Regenerative Cotton Fund in partnership with the Soil Health Institute, a non-profit based in Morrisville, North Carolina. It will fund research into the impact of agricultural practices known as no-till farming and cover cropping, while assisting farmers who want to use the techniques.

Ploughing disrupts the soil and releases carbon into the atmosphere, said Cristine Morgan, chief scientific officer at the Soil Health Institute. “It’s almost like someone taking a wrecking ball and knocking down your house every year,” she said.

Of the 4.85-million hectares dedicated to cotton production in the US, 8% uses cover cropping and about 20% employs no-till farming, she said. She and her colleagues are preparing to research in more detail the impact of the practices. Morgan said she expects they will result in better drought resistance, fertiliser efficiency and weed management.

Ralph Lauren will not immediately incorporate the regenerative cotton that is grown under this programme into its supply chains. The near-term goal, Alagoz said, is to increase the supply and availability of more sustainably grown cotton.

“Later, we will find out how to connect it to our business and our product,” she said.

Bloomberg News. More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com


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