sustainable cotton

We’re transforming systems and practices to drive sustainable cotton

We know that to increase the market of sustainable cotton, we need to fundamentally transform systems and practices. While we support various sustainable cotton standards, on the ground we're tackling the conditions that hold organic cotton back. We're helping cotton farmers make the switch to organic farming. And we're working with brands and industry players so that together, we can accelerate the market and uptake of more sustainable cotton.

To see our sustainable cotton theory of change, click here.

The problem

Cotton is the very fibre of our industry, but farming it is a thirsty, resource-intensive business. Conventional production requires large amounts of water, pesticides and fertilizer. These chemicals damage farmers' health and cause the loss of biodiversity.

Organic cotton is better for farmers' health, their businesses and the environment. But right now, less than 1% of the world's cotton is certified organic and demand is exceeding supply. Lots of brands have committed to going organic, but insufficient organic cotton production means they struggle to reach their ambitions. And right now, there's no central vision or plan between industry players about the best way forward.

At the same time, it is difficult for farmers to convert. Going organic requires new skills, knowledge and access to certified organic seed. Yields can also be lower in the first years compared to genetically modified seeds, which means farmers have no incentive to make the switch.

The opportunity

Organic cotton represents an incredible opportunity to radically transform our industry's impact on the environment and farmers' lives.

If it's grown and sold the right way, organic cotton improves farmers' health and their business, enabling farming communities to thrive. And organic cotton farming eliminates dangerous chemicals, improving the health of soils and increasing water conservation.

That's why we're trying to bring industry players – brands, governments and NGOs – together under a unified plan to strengthen the organic cotton market. And why we are working to increase the number of certified organic farmers worldwide.

Uniting the industry

Thanks to the commitment of major brands, like C&A, the demand for sustainable cotton is on the rise. And many of these industry players have been working to grow the market. That's good news.

But until now, efforts have been fragmented. Especially around organic cotton. We believe that the industry needs to come together.

That's why we're funding multi-stakeholder initiatives, like the Organic Cotton Accelerator and Cotton 2040. Through these initiatives, we're focusing and accelerating efforts to create a systemic shift towards a sustainable cotton industry.

Working on the ground

To accelerate organic cotton, it's imperative we help farmers overcome the barriers to growing it.

In the short-term, organic cotton farming is more labour intensive, high-quality agricultural inputs are hard to come by and yields can be low. And some farmers lack the technical knowledge and skills needed for organic cotton cultivation.

So we're working with farmers. Giving them the training and finance they need to grow organic. We're demonstrating the social, environmental and economic business case for making the switch. And we're working to make sure farmers have access to high quality seeds and to markets to sell their produce.

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