Did you know that cotton uses 22.5% of the world’s insecticides? At the same time, 77 million workers suffer from pesticide poisoning each year. We can do better-for the sake of our planet and people.
Peter Melchett – the Soil Association’s policy director, who recently spoke at the Sustainable Textiles Conference in Hong Kong – asked textile industry leaders: “Have you cottoned on yet?” This catchy slogan is part of the Soil Association and Global Organic Textile Standard’s campaign called Cottoned On.
Melchett called on the industry to put a halt to the environmental damage and threats to cotton farmers’ livelihoods caused by global cotton farming and processing. Up to 80% of world cotton production currently comes from GM crops (with 95% of the seed in India controlled by one company: Monsanto). At the same time, worldwide demand for organic cotton is set to grow by at least 10% in 2011-2012. But some brands are failing to commit to organic standards, opting instead for easier, lower-level schemes or worse – nothing at all. Without commitment from brands, it is farmers who bear the social, environmental and economic risks associated with cotton production: “Organic cotton is proven to deliver positive benefits for people and the environment,” said Melchett. “When it comes to making sustainability claims you can trust, nothing beats it.”
Melchett summed up the five unique benefits of organic production. They are:
1. Give control to farmers, not GM (genetically modified) companies
Organic farmers don't have their choices controlled by GM companies
2. Eliminate hazardous synthetic pesticides
Organic cotton doesn’t use dangerous pesticides, protecting farmers’ lives and the environment
3. Help farmers feed their families
Organic cotton enables farmers to grow other crops for food and income
4. Save precious water
Organic cotton uses less water, preserving a scarce and precious resource for the future
5. Combat climate change
Organic cotton farming uses less energy and healthy organic soils store more CO2
While a lot of work still needs to be done to encourage consumers, retailers, brand owners and others in the supply chain to adopt sustainability measures in the textile industry, there is good news. Despite global recessions, global retail sales of organic cotton apparel, home and personal care products have been increasing. In 2010, H&M, C&A, and Nike were the top three users of organic cotton worldwide. It’s also great to see such forward thinking retail giants in the sustainability space, including Puma which has launched an environmental profit and loss model to assess environmental impact in its supply chain.
Kudos to Textile Exchange, the organization behind the Sustainable Textiles Conference, which has recently launched the Content Claim Standard. Anne Gillespie, Director of Industry Integrity, shared about this latest project at the conference. This latest tool will help companies establish a chain of custody for the materials in their products. The organization is currently working to create an Organic Content Standard to allow companies to accurately and confidently label the content of their products, increasing transparency in their supply chains.
To find out more about sustainable textiles, check out:
Textile Exchange www.textileexchange.org
Soil Association www.socialassociation.org
More information about organic cotton standards can be found at:
Global Standard www.global-standard.org
Locally in Hong Kong, check out:
Sustainable Fashion Business Consortium www.sfbc.org.hk