Thirsty for fashion? How organic cotton delivers in a water-stressed world

The world is facing a climate crisis, with water scarcity as one of the top ten global risks to society.

Our new report highlights the disastrous impact of cotton farming on water.

But organic cotton offers a solution to the water crisis, and a path towards a better future.

Report Summary:

One kilogram of cotton takes as much as 20,000 litres of water to produce, but our report shows that going organic can make a significant difference that saves precious water.

Non-organic cotton is:

A thirsty crop
Growing cotton accounts for 69% of the water footprint of textile fibre production. The majority of cotton is grown in countries already facing water stress.

A dirty crop
Cotton accounts for 16% of all insecticides sold globally. Many of these hazardous synthetic pesticides are washed into our waters and soils, causing serious problems to animals and humans.

Fashion to dye for
20% of global water pollution is a result of dyeing textiles. Exposure to these chemicals cause long term complications to humans and animals.

Download the report

Thirsty for fashion?
How organic cotton delivers in a water stressed world


But it doesn’t have to be this way

Organically grown cotton meets strict social and environmental criteria and works holistically with people and the planet.

Benefits of organic cotton

Our report shows that organic is the only system which eliminates toxic substances, requires significantly less water and has many social, economic and environmental benefits.

These 5 key benefits are:

1. Saves Precious Water

2. Combats Climate Change

3. Helps Farmers Feed Their Families

4. Gives Control to Farmers, Not GM Companies

5. Eliminates Hazardous Synthetic Pesticide Use

1kg of cotton takes as much as 10,000-20,000 litres of water to produce

Case study: the disappearance of the Aral Sea

The Aral Sea, located on the boarder of Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, was once the fourth largest inland body of water. A thriving fishing community lived along the coastline but today it is a toxic wasteland.

Cotton farming has reduced the Aral Sea by 90%, with the majority of water used to irrigate cotton crops.

This has resulted in the loss of 24 species of fish and a widespread disappearance of native animals and plants.

Dried pesticide residue left on the surface of the sea has blown toxic dust storms into the surrounding area causing deaths due to lung disease and throat cancer.

What makes organic cotton different?

Find out more about organic cotton, what it is and what the key benefits are.

Tweet your favourite brands to go #OrganicForThePlanet

Use our post to tag your favourite brand or shop and ask them to go #OrganicForThePlanet 

Small steps to making sustainable fashion choices

For Businesses

Find out more about certification and the benefits that organic cotton can bring to your business. 

Further research and reports from Soil Association

The Soil Association is the leading voice for organic textiles and publishes many papers, briefings and reports each year.

Download our most recent reports below.

Failed Promises

The rise and fall of GM cotton in India, October 2017

Have you cottoned on yet?

A joint Soil Association and GOTS campaign

Cool Cotton

Organic cotton and climate change, September 2015

Food Security

The benefits of organic cotton to food security