Being part of the Sustainable Cotton Communique

The future for sustainable cotton

Soil Association Certification were really excited to be part of the ground breaking communique on Sustainable Cotton, that was launched last week through the International Sustainability Unit and led by HRH the Prince of Wales, Mike Barry, Director of Sustainable Business Marks and Spencer and Soil Association’s  Policy Director, Lord Peter Melchett.

We believe that there is an imperative for cotton to be produced and used more sustainably; not only to reduce its significant burden on the environment, but also as a pathway to lift millions of people out of poverty. Cotton is the most abundantly produced natural textile in the world. Over 20 million tonnes of cotton is produced in over 100 countries, primarily by smallholder farmers in developing countries, and supports the livelihoods of around 350 million people. Although cotton is of immense commercial importance globally, it is a sector that faces many social, economic and environmental challenges.  The majority of cotton production is still toxic, thirsty, and energy intensive. The rise of GM cotton is putting farmers’ livelihoods and choices at risk.

cotton in a hand

Consumers are better informed than ever about the social and environmental impacts of making textiles products, and they are demanding more from brands. The communique, which was last week signed by 13 brands including, ASOS, H&M, IKEA, Levi Strauss & Co, Marks & Spencer, Nike, Sainsbury’s and Tesco, with other brands in the pipeline is a hugely significant step towards a more sustainable fashion & textiles industry.

Organic is the gold standard of sustainable cotton production and organic cotton is growing across the world. The global cotton market is valued at $15.7 billion, and we see brands often using organic cotton as the launch pad to highlight their building of a broader organic proposition.

In order to achieve the change required and ensure 100% sustainable cotton by 2025, we as a certification body have to work with the other certification schemes and programmes to help the companies who have made this commitment be able to achieve this and it was great to be speaking alongside BCI, Cotton 2040, Fairtrade and Textile Exchange last week.

The number of organic cotton production facilities is increasing making it easier to source; something that can be challenging at times and we support our Licensees across the supply chain.  The recent GOTS market figures show a 21% increase in the number of certified facilities and there are GOTS certified facilities in 68 countries.  We’re also seeing more production and manufacture of organic cotton returning to the UK in response to the need to shorter supply chains.

The market for sustainable and in particular Organic textiles is growing. Reported in the 2017 SA Organic Market report, sales of Organic textiles from our own 67 licensees increased in the UK by 30% year on year, since 2008 the sales value has increased 5 fold to £28m showing the increasing demand from  consumers across multiple product categories; not just fashion.

The biggest change to the lives of the largest number of people in the world will come from a switch to sustainable cotton of which organic is a key and growing part.  In addition to providing certification to both GOTS and OCS (Textile Exchange), we work to make the consumer and business more aware of the benefits of organic cotton and support our Licensees to communicate this with marketing materials, events and support.  It’s an exciting time for organic.

Find out more about the organic certification we offer and make the change to sustainable, organic cotton & textiles.