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Cotton 2040: Planning for climate adaptation

Physical climate risk to cotton growing regions

From the shirts we wear to the towels we use and the sheets we sleep on, cotton affects all our daily lives. Cotton makes up around 31% of all fibre used in the textile sector globally and supports the livelihoods of almost 350 million people. But the future of this important fibre is uncertain.

The entire cotton value chain – from producers and processors to brands, retailers or traders – is facing increasing exposure to climate risks, including rising temperatures, changes to water availability and extreme weather events. At the same time, the sector itself can also contribute to climate change. To thrive in an increasingly climate-disrupted world, the cotton sector, and the wider textiles industry, require radical change which can only be achieved through sector-wide collaborative action to understand and adapt to the changing climate.

The resources on this website are designed to enable actors across the cotton industry to better understand the serious future challenges to cotton production, and inspire more ambitious action to reduce emissions and build the sector’s resilience.

Contact Hannah Cunneen (Forum for the Future) or Erin Owain (WTW) to find out more. to find out more.

Global economic impact of the cotton industry
People rely on cotton for their livelihood
of cotton growing regions face high or very high exposure to climate risk
of cotton regions to experience increased heat stress by 2040

Launch the interactive tool

Cotton 2040 Climate Risk Explorer

The Cotton 2040 Climate Risk Explorer Tool is an interactive map showing physical climate risk to cotton-growing regions globally. Explore the tool to access more detailed information on each climate hazard, understand the practical implications on cotton production, zoom into specific cotton-growing regions, and access links to further resources.

The tool presents relative climate risk scores for twelve climate indicators which are tailored to cotton’s key climate sensitivities projected for the 2040s under a high emission scenario (RCP 8.5). The climate indicators are: growing season length, heat stress, total rainfall during the growing season, extreme rainfall events, long-term drought, short-term drought, fluvial flooding, coastal flooding, strong winds, storms, wildfire and landslides.

Read more about the results of the analysis and the methodology in the Executive Summary or Full Report in the download section below.

A screenshot image showing the Cotton 2040 Climate Risk Explorer Tool which enables users to view climate risks to cotton growing regions around the world.
The Cotton 2040 Climate Risk Explorer Tool's interactive map interface.

Analysis reports & Downloadable resources

Two analyses were undertaken as part of the Cotton 2040 initiative’s Planning for Climate Adaptation workstream: The world’s first Global Analysis of Climate Risks to cotton-growing regions, and a detailed Climate Risk and Vulnerability Assessment of cotton-growing regions in India.

The studies were conducted by Cotton 2040 partner and climate-risk specialists WTW's Climate and Resilience Hub. The Cotton 2040 initiative is facilitated by international sustainability non-profit, Forum for the Future.

Report: Physical climate risk assessment for global cotton production

This report is the first-ever global analysis of climate risks to cotton production. The study provides a high-level analysis of physical climate risks across global cotton-growing regions for the 2040s.

Key Findings:
  • All global cotton-growing regions will be exposed to increased risk from at least one climate hazard.
  • Half of all cotton-growing regions will face high or very high climate risk exposure to at least one climate hazard.
  • 75% of the world's cotton-growing regions face greater exposure to heat stress (defined as temperatures above 40°C)
  • 40% of global cotton-growing regions are projected to experience a decrease in growing season
  • All six highest cotton-producing countries – India, USA, China, Brazil, Pakistan and Turkey – are exposed to increased climate risk, particularly from wildfire, drought and extreme rainfall.
Title File Type File Size
Full Report PDF 1.2 MB
Executive Summary PDF 1 MB

Report: Physical climate risk and vulnerability assessment: India Analysis

This report is the first-ever detailed physical climate risk and vulnerability assessment for India’s cotton value chain. The study considers a wide range of climate hazards including thresholds that are specific to cotton production. A total of 41 climate hazard indicators and socio-economic indicators were used to assess the risk not only to production but also to the wider cotton value chain.

The study focused on cotton cultivation and cotton processing in 13 districts across three of India's major cotton-growing states: Gujarat, Maharashtra and Telangana.

Key Findings:
  • Climate change could expose one third of India's cotton growing regions to high risks from temperature increases, changes to rainfall patterns and extreme weather events by 2040.
  • In the 2040s, cotton-growing regions across India will be subject to greater heat stress than under present-day conditions.
  • In some regions, this increase in temperature is projected tobe coupled by an increase in water stress
  • All districts are projected to experience an increase in the number of days at which labour productivity significantly decreases.
  • Temperatures across Gujarat are projected to exceed the thermal tolerance limits for cotton more often than in other districts.
  • Common areas of vulnerability across all districts include multidimensional poverty, low female work participation rates, low male and female literacy rates, and limited access to banking services, technology and information.
Title File Type File Size
Full Report PDF 1.7 MB
Executive Summary PDF 1 MB

Round table series: Building a Climate Resilient Cotton Sector

The Cotton 2040 team hosted a series of roundtables with stakeholders from across the cotton supply chains. Representatives from nearly every cotton producing region across the globe attended, as well as from stakeholder groups ranging from farmers, manufacturers, traders to brands and retailers.

Key takeaway messages from the series included:

  • Most risk is at farm-level
    • Respondents focused on physical risks at a farm or area of production level. The potential of risks differed region by region, yet each area would face at least one if not many compounding hazards.
  • But risk spreads through the value chain
    • Impacts of climate change were not only felt by producers, but all through the value chain, e.g. downstream actors would face higher energy costs, logistical delays and likely significant fluctuations in volume of cotton.
  • A dearth of data hinders adaptation
    • Data was lacking in predictive models, in the development of financial or insurance models, and in traceability efforts. An outdated approach to data may amplify the negative consequences of each risk and hazard.

A detailed breakdown of the findings from the round table series is available to be downloaded below.


Other Cotton 2040 resources

The two reports and the Climate Risk Explorer tool are designed to enable actors across the cotton industry to better understand the serious future challenges to cotton production, and inspire more ambitious action to reduce emissions and build the sector’s resilience. You can find out more in the webinar recording under Industry Voices below.

The following resources can help you get started with further making sense of the implications and taking action.

  1. 01

    Planning for climate adaptation – roundtable recordings

    Over the past few months, the Cotton 2040 team has brought cotton producers, brands, retailers and industry initiatives together over a series of virtual roundtables to develop a common understanding across the cotton system as to how climate change is likely to impact key stakeholders and regions, and agree on a shared set of priorities for both urgent and long-term action across the cotton sector. You can watch all recordings on our YouTube channel.

  2. 02

    CottonUP Guide

    One important first step all brands and retailers can take is to increase their sourcing of sustainable cotton. Created by Cotton 2040, the CottonUP Guide exists to help apparel industry professionals develop and implement sourcing strategies across multiple cotton standards, such as organic, Fairtrade, the Better Cotton Initiative, US Cotton Trust Protocol and others. The Guide is periodically updated to best reflect the ever-evolving cotton industry and is available in English, German and Japanese. This work is supported by Anthesis.

    Contact Neil Walker to find out more or watch a recording of our introductory CottonUP webinar.

  3. 03

    Post-session Summaries

    These are the post-session summaries compiling the information presented during each of our masterclasses from the 'Insights to Action' Cotton 2040 Masterclass Series: Unravelling climate risks to cotton for brands and retailers.


WTW and Forum for the Future are delighted to co-host a series of practical, “Insights to Action” masterclasses on climate risks to the cotton sector.

Designed specifically for brands and retailers, the masterclass series will be delivered by leading subject-matter experts from WTW’s Climate and Resilience Hub, and Forum for the Future.

The interactive, online sessions will be held on Tuesdays and Thursdays, 13:00-13:45 BST (08:00-08:45 EDT; 14:00 – 14:45 CEST, 17:30 – 18:15 IST) starting on 11th October 2022, and will last for 30 minutes, followed by a 15-minute facilitated Q and A.

Register here

Industry Voices

Why is there a need to consider the impacts of climate change on cotton production? Why should the cotton sector consider the impacts of climate change? What are the key findings from the Global and India analysis reports? And what does all this mean for farmers, brands and retailers, cotton standards and other supply chain actors? Watch the videos to learn more.


Cotton 2040: Project Background

Cotton 2040 is a multi-stakeholder initiative with a mission to facilitate the shift to a sustainable global cotton industry which is resilient in a changing climate; which uses business models that support sustainable production and livelihoods; and where sustainably produced cotton is the norm.

The initiative is convened by Forum for the Future, with expert partners WTW, Anthesis and the World Resources Institute (WRI). Cotton 2040 aims to accelerate progress and maximise the impact of existing sustainability initiatives across the global cotton industry, by bringing together leading international brands and retailers, sustainable cotton standards, existing industry initiatives and other stakeholders across the value chain. Learn more here.

Planning for Climate Adaptation workstream

The resources on this site were created as part of the Cotton 2040 “Planning for Climate Adaptation” workstream. The aim of the workstream is to create sector-wide collaborative action to understand and adapt to the changing climate. The two studies were generated in response to the lack of comprehensive, readily available information about how the climate crisis is likely to impact cotton production, its supply chain, and the nature of the industry over the coming decades.

Working group members

Interested in becoming a member? Email Hannah Cunneen (Forum for the Future) or Erin Owain (WTW) to find out more. to find out more.

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