Organic Cotton on the Move
by Redaktion (comments: 0)
The Organic Exchange Conference recently held in Utrecht (Netherlands) showed that sales of organic cotton increasing rapidly – they are set to triple to $ 2.6 billion at the end of 2008 from currently $ 900 million as retailers and brands make new commitments to sustainable textile production. Nike, Marks and Spencer, CO-OP, Patagonia, Timberland and Wal-Mart already sell organic lines – Reebok, C&A, Hennes & Mauritz, Target and Next have just joined in.
Rebecca Calahan Klein, board member of Organic Exchange, stated during the conference, that there were more than 30 apparel retailers committing to organic programmes, and around 1200 companies working through the supply chain on these projects. One of the big issues raised at the conference was the question if there would be enough fibre for the growing demand. Ms Klein said that there were indications that conventional cotton farmers are likely to convert to organic, with brands now actively looking at supporting new yarn development.
Sportswear brand Nike plans a long-term growth in its organic cotton programme. The initial plan was a 10 % use of organic cotton in their sports culture apparel category by the end of 2007, but now 15 % of their cotton activewear garments is expected to be made from organic cotton by then. Nike’s Monique Leewenburg stated that 50 % of the cotton used in this category will be organic by the end of 2009, and 100 % by 2011.
Another important issue at the conference was that there are too many standards resulting in a flood of labels and this would confuse consumers. Additionally, the supply chain becomes unsure about which standard to apply for. The whole cost of the process can spiral out of control.
OTA (USA), Soil Association (UK), Japanese Organic Cotton Association (Japan), IVN (Germany) and IMO (CH) will adopt a “Global Organic Textiles Standard”(GOTS). Critics claim that this approach is too rigid for brands that need a more flexible approach to compliance. GOTS believes that a globally recognized standard would provide credible assurance to the end consumer.
In Europe there is no legal requirement for organic textiles to be certified. Purchasing an organic item of clothing is more of an emotional decision, unlike the purchase of organic food with its obvious health benefits. But consumers in the US, Western Europe and parts of Asia take these decisions in larger numbers than ever before.