Retail Group Commits To Expansive Ethical Practices

Cotton On group makes an unprecedented business commitment to purpose-driven retail.

The Good Report captures the company’s pledge to make a positive difference in people’s lives, including goals for carbon neutrality, water & plastic reduction and ethical sourcing.

JOHANNESBURG, 7 March 2022: One of South Africa’s most loved retailers, the Cotton On Group, has strengthened its commitment to sustainability and purpose-led business through a commitment to doing good in all areas of its operation. Cemented in The Good Report, its inaugural impact report, the retailer has made its pledge public, showcasing how far the company has come over its 30-year journey, as well as where it’s headed.

The Cotton On Group recently partnered with UNICEF, helping deliver more than one million Covid-19 vaccines to some of the world’s most vulnerable communities. The group set a target to be carbon neutral across its entire operations by 2030, achieving 84% of its 2023 target to wash 100% of its denim using water reduction processes, and significantly reduced the use of plastics across its operations. The retail giant also expanded its Africa Cotton program into Mozambique to positively impact the lives of more farmers in this area, launching its first-ever range of t-shirts made from the single-origin Africa Cotton.

Now, the retailer will be taking this ethos further. Using the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals, The Good Report is its blueprint to contribute to achieving a better and more sustainable future for all.

With big ambitions to save water, reduce waste and source responsibly, the group has put sustainability at the forefront of the business. The company intends to make a lasting contribution in the areas of responsible materials and production, plastics and packaging, and carbon neutrality, with a goal of reaching carbon net neutral globally by 2030. The Ozone wash method of textile care that uses electricity and oxygen in place of chemicals in the traditional washing process, will substantially reduce water consumption, as well as energy, chemical and enzymes.

The retailer has a goal to make 100% of their products with a sustainable attribute, by 2030. This means every product made will include more sustainable components and materials or manufactured with reduced impact processing. For example, 100% of their denim will be washed using water reduction processes by 2023, while 100% of the plastics, polyester and synthetic materials will be made from certified recycled alternatives by 2025.

Stack of blue jeans in a store.

Additionally, standards have been set for sustainably-sourced cotton; responsible wood, timber, cardboard and paper in packaging; recycled cotton, organic cotton, responsible viscose, recycled polyester as well as recycled nylon. Cotton On has further committed to purchase 100% of the cotton produced by the Africa Cotton Program, which has shown remarkable promise in empowering local women and building communities.

The Group has pledged to phase out all unnecessary single-use plastic packaging by 2025 and have replaced plastic packaging use for online orders with approved alternatives from responsibly managed forests. Garment swing tags will now be made from 100% recycled paper with care labels being made from 100% recycled polyester.

Locally, Cotton On has partnered with The Clothing Bank to create income-generating opportunities for women in South Africa. Up to 800 women participate in a two-year program, with support and training to create their own business. Once they have finished the training, participants frequently receive donations from the Group’s stores to sell in their communities. This program ensures women are learning valuable skills, as well as earning a stable income for them and their families.

Also in South Africa, the Cotton On Foundation supported the opening of Ethekwini Primary in KwaMashu, Kwa Zulu-Natal, creating 1,280 educational places in 2020. The infrastructure of the school was redeveloped, with additional classrooms prioritized to ensure that children could complete their final year of primary school, Grade 7. The Foundation will soon be announcing plans to begin work on another school.

“Making a positive difference in people’s lives – it sounds simple, but it’s something we’ve always taken really seriously. It’s been our purpose since day one, and 30 years later, it’s still the reason we get out of bed in the morning. It’s who we are and what we stand for,” said Cotton On Group CEO, Peter Johnson.

“This values-driven approach is also how we’re tackling the other big challenges of our time. Our team members and customers expect us to minimise our impact and create meaningful change for current and future generations – and so they should. It’s not enough to only offer a great quality product, it must have a purpose, it must be sourced and made ethically and, most importantly, it should make a positive impact every step of the way,” he added.

To view The Good Report, click here.

About Author