How SustainCERT and Regrow Ag Are Transforming Cotton Cultivation

SustainCERT, through its Value Change Initiative and partnership with Regrow Ag, is working to promote resilience across the cotton value chain.

This article was originally published on Sustainable Brands.

Cotton is the backbone of the textile industry, helping to bring countless fabrics to life across the globe. Beyond textiles for the fashion, housewares and automobile industries, this versatile natural fiber is also used in everything from healthcare to paper production. A high-value commodity, its social and environmental impacts are also high — making it an essential factor in land-based climate action.

27 million tons of cotton are harvested every year; and although it occupies only 2.5 percent of the world's agricultural land, it consumes a significant portion of our resources. The crop uses 16 percent of all insecticides, 7 percent of herbicides and a staggering amount of water: Cotton has consumed more than 25 billion tons of water in 2024 thus far — that’s an average of 700 million tons per day.

In order to meet our global climate goals, we must reduce consumption of natural resources and significantly cut emissions generated from cotton production.

The fashion, apparel and textiles industry has set a goal to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from raw materials and fibers by 45 percent by 2030, and transitioning to sustainable cotton production is a key factor in meeting that goal. However, in 2021, only 19 percent of total global production comprised preferred raw materials sourced sustainably. This imbalance raises concerns — projecting a potential demand-and-supply gap of 133 million tons by 2030.

Reducing emissions across the cotton industry is hindered by challenges including a lack of standardization surrounding its cultivation. Without universally accepted guidelines, it is difficult to consistently implement and measure sustainable practices across different value chains — which blocks the industry’s ability to effectively address and mitigate the environmental impacts associated with cotton cultivation.

"The challenge with cotton, as with many commodities, lies in the difficulty of operationalizing guidance,”

Silvana Paniagua, Director of SustainCERT’s Value Change Initiative (VCI), told Sustainable Brands®. “Not every value chain aligns perfectly; and the unique farming system of cotton, involving crop rotation, lacks clear guidance for carbon accounting. This creates credibility challenges — especially when attributing the benefits of certain practices.”

SustainCERT, a leading climate-impact verifier and the powerhouse behind the VCI, has developed innovative ways to operationalize guidance — including the establishment of a working group to inform best practices and partnering with Regrow Ag to develop a value-chain decarbonization platform.

The partnership between SustainCERT and Regrow uniquely combines knowledge of regulatory standards, needs from key industry stakeholders (including corporations) and tech-based implementation capabilities — offering solutions that will meet the needs of stakeholders while progressing the industry at large.

Cross-industry collaboration accelerates action

The Value Change Initiative, co-founded by SustainCERT and Gold Standard, has emerged as a pivotal solution to tackling the challenges plaguing various industries — including food and agriculture, and apparel and footwear. Functioning as a practitioner's forum, VCI brings together major companies, civil society leaders and climate frameworks to collaboratively define best practices for Scope 3 emissions reductions and removals at scale. Regarding cotton, the initiative helps by developing clear guidance for sustainable practices, fostering knowledge-sharing among stakeholders, and facilitating the scaling of value-chain actions.

"We are a practitioner’s forum, helping all actors in the system — from suppliers to companies, standards, regulators and NGOs. We aim to share knowledge and educate everyone on greenhouse gas accounting complexities," Paniagua explains.

"Greenhouse gas accounting is complex — it's not just about numbers; it's about understanding where these numbers come from and the implications of different approaches."

VCI builds consensus on effective and scalable interventions — providing a common understanding for stakeholders, including cotton farmers. By encouraging organizations to set ambitious targets and net-zero goals, VCI propels the adoption of sustainable practices in cotton farming, offering a collaborative space where stakeholders collectively define solutions to enhance environmental performance across the cotton value chain.

Regrow Ag — a company powering agricultural resilience for today’s leading retailers, CPG companies, processors and farmers — is part of this forum. Regrow’s Agriculture Resilience Platform enables companies across the ag supply chain to safeguard their commodity supply chains by accelerating the needed scale of GHG emissions reduction, adoption of regenerative-farming practices, and proactive adaptation to the changing climate.

Alongside other companies and industry stakeholders, Regrow provides guidance on sustainable practice implementation and regulation.

“Cotton is one of the world’s most significant commodities.” said Jeff Seale, Regrow’s Director of Environmental Strategy and Climate Policy.

“At Regrow, our mission is to make agriculture resilient globally — and that cannot happen unless we address cotton. By contributing to the Value Change Initiative and working with SustainCERT, we are helping to ensure that farmers and suppliers have access to sustainable, resilient cotton supply chains.”

A shared responsibility for decarbonization

To further support their ambitious targets, SustainCERT has partnered with Regrow to develop its value-chain decarbonization platform.

This platform combines climate expertise with technology to bring credibility to carbon markets and scope 3 emissions reductions. The platform not only enables companies to verify their GHG impacts, but also facilitates the transfer of these outcomes between supply-chain partners. This approach allows companies to collaboratively invest in GHG reductions and removals — fostering a shared responsibility for decarbonization and accelerating sustainable practices.

By utilizing Regrow's data- and machine-learning-driven agriculture-resilience platform, SustainCERT can quantify on-farm GHG emissions — ensuring a seamless process integrating measurement and reporting directly into the digital verification system.

Previously, transferring farm-based emissions data from a platform such as Regrow's to a verification partner such as SustainCERT was a manual and time-consuming process. However, through the integration of Regrow's platform with SustainCERT's verification solution, they are introducing an industry-first, end-to-end solution that streamlines the process — eliminating the need for manual data transfer through emailed spreadsheets and documents.

"Service providers like Regrow play a pivotal role in this ecosystem,” Paniagua says. “We work with them to understand the needs of companies — helping them design or redesign their business offerings. This collaborative approach ensures alignment with the dynamic requirements of the scope 3 world.”

“Our platform helps companies build the business case for agriculture resilience,” Seale says. “With our platform, companies can see emissions baselines, identify areas for growth and secure the resources needed to make change on a large scale. Together with SustainCERT, we can scale our impact while ensuring that sustainable practices remain accessible to farmers and their value-chain partners alike.”

Beyond its immediate impact on efficiency and transparency, the partnership aims to establish standards and guidance within the cotton industry. By creating a common language and streamlining processes, Regrow and SustainCERT are fostering a more sustainable, accountable and standardized future for cotton farming.

"We are a big believer in collective and coordinated action, because companies need more than just claimable initiatives — collaboration is essential for long-term sustainable markets and resilient sectors," Paniagua asserts.

Growing resilient raw materials

The learnings and standards disseminated to the cotton industry through collaborations such as these will become a cornerstone for industry resilience and incentivize producers to adopt sustainable practices — which will benefit local communities and livelihoods, as well as soil and crop health. Resilience extends beyond farms to encompass farming communities — forming the bedrock for a robust, resilient and enduring market.

“Contributing to the decarbonization journey not only allows companies to claim their role in that commodity but also secures a license to operate under evolving guidelines,” Paniagua says. “Through awareness and strategic investment, companies can optimize resources, mitigate risks and foster resilience at many levels.”

Learn more about agriculture resilience.

Looking for a deep dive?

Get the 101 on Agriculture Resilience and see what it could mean for the future of our industry — and our planet.

Learn more