Exploring Cotton in 2018This year, the fashion industry will shape the next generation of sustainability. With brands such as Ralph Lauren and Uniqlo already releasing technical innovations, brands are striving to meet millennials’ preferences through sustainability leadership. For the past year, the fashion industry has been dominated by technical innovations, but it’s time for sustainable cotton to gain traction again.With traditional cotton, as much as 650 gallons of water is required to clean and make one T-shirt, according to Water Footprint. That’s surprisingly a lot of water. As an alternative, sustainable cotton is more efficient for the environment and lowers water usage.Meet the companies who are adding sustainable cotton to their apparel. adidas. As a sports apparel company founded in Germany, adidas strives to integrate sustainable design across its business model. Ranked #42 of 50 for the World’s Most Admired Companies, adidas is committed to lowering large percentages of its water and energy usage. According to its 2016 sustainability progress report, adidas has replaced 60 percent of its cotton with sustainable cotton. In addition, adidas hopes to achieve 100 percent sustainable cotton across all products by the end of 2018. adidas has also outlined other categories to focus on, including waste reduction and addressing workers’ health grievances. adidas has not yet listed a progress report for 2017. Target. Target, Walmart’s competitor, also supplies apparel. Known for sponsoring employee community services, Target has made attempts to maximize water efficiency and will continue to improve. Target saw a decrease in water usage by 8 percent. Starting this month, Target commits to using 100 percent sustainable cotton by 2022. Plans for using sustainable cotton was difficult to trace on its website, but I found it here after browsing for 20 minutes. Unlike adidas, Target has also not listed the percentage of cotton replaced. It does, however, list embracing a circular apparel economy. L.L. Bean. L.L. Bean, an outdoor gear and apparel company, is known for its ongoing mission of lowering its environmental impact. Its corporate headquarters in Freeport, Maine, for instance, has solar panels installed to reduce energy and electricity emissions. More notably, however, is L.L. Bean’s commitment to using 100 percent organic cotton in more of their products. Its status on percentages of organic cotton use is unknown and not released to the public yet.Neither L.L. Bean nor Target has released a sustainability report. The Bottom Line. Will these three companies emerge as fashion sustainability champions? L.L. Bean and Target are similar; both of their initiatives are fragmented. In contrast, adidas’ sustainability initiatives are more of an integral and defining part of its product life cycles.As sustainability CSR becomes apparent, consumers’ demand for sustainability will prompt apparel companies to lead sustainability initiatives.