In July 2020 Ethical Consumer searched Tesco PLC’s website for the company's cotton sourcing policy.
The company stated on a Sustainable Fabrics page: "Our aim is to have 100% of the cotton we use in all Tesco products to be sourced sustainably (Better Cotton, organic and recycled) by 2025." Regarding its clothing brand F&F it said that in its "2018 ranges 88% of the cotton we sourced was produced sustainably, the majority through the Better Cotton Initiative."
A page titled "Addressing the sustainability challenges in our top 20 products and ingredients." stated "To eliminate forced labour in cotton production, we have banned sourcing from Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan where state-sanctioned child labour and forced labour are common in cotton production". This committment was also reiterated elsewhere on the website and mention in the company's Modern Slavery Statement 2017. The company had also signed the Responsible Sourcing Network's Uzbekistan pledge but not the Turkmenistan one. However, it was considered to have a clear policy not to source cotton from either of these countries so was not marked down under Human Rights fo this.
The Organic Trade Association website, www.ota.com, stated in July 2018 that cotton covered roughly 2.78% of global arable land, but accounted for 12.34% of all insecticide sales and 3.94% of herbicide sales. Due to the impacts of the widespread use of pesticides in cotton production worldwide the company also lost half a mark in the Pollution & Toxics category.
Overall, Tesco received Ethical Consumer's worst rating for its approach to cotton sourcing.
According to the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA), a non-profit pro biotech organisation, genetically modified cotton accounted for 80% of cotton grown in 2017. Due to the prevalence of GM cotton in cotton supply chains and the lack of any evidence that the company avoided it, it was assumed that some of the company's cotton products contained some GM material. As a result it lost half a mark under the Controversial Technology category.