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Organic cotton retail market grows in 2011
November 9, 2012 - United States Of America
 
Textile Exchange, a non-profit organization dedicated to accelerating sustainable practices in the textile industry, released their 2011 Organic Cotton Market Report to the public. The report, now in its sixth year, is compiled to share the most recent global statistics about cotton sustainability initiatives. It provides an overview of the progress of organic cotton production and use in the industry.

Textile Exchange staff have worked to compile the data and analyze it so anyone involved in the industry can apply the learnings to strengthen and improve sustainable textile practices from the farm through retail sales. This year, for the first time, Textile Exchange is offering the report for free on their website.

The 2011 report shares both positive and negative news for the industry. The most notable issue is that two significant and unaligned shifts have occurred. One, the organic cotton retail market grew by 32% from 2010-2011. The other, for the first time in 10 years, organic cotton production dropped – and not by a small amount – 37%. India, the country producing almost 70% of organic cotton, saw the greatest reduction. This global drop is somewhat surprising as 81% of brands and retailers indicated they had planned to expand their use of organic cotton in 2011.

The textile, apparel and footwear industries continued to collaborate on and adopt game-changing programs such as the outdoor Industry Assignation’s Eco-Index (now the Sustainable Apparel Coalition Higg Index) and Zero Discharge of Hazardous Substances. Greenpeace’s Detox and Dirty Laundry campaigns led to the formation of the industry-led Zero-Discharge of Hazardous Substances program and its Roadmap to Zero.

Also on the positive side, the industry has embraced a broader cotton portfolio that spans certified organic cotton and non-genetically modified seed to initiatives that improve the way conventional cotton is farmed - environmentally, socially and economically. Perhaps the biggest news is that twelve out of 20 organic cotton-growing countries can expand production significantly given clear market signals, especially Benin and Mali (West Africa), Brazil, Nicaragua, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

Each year, Textile Exchange staff compiles and assesses the data so it is easily digestible for any company within the textile value chain. This year’s report supports the work of the 2012 Organic Cotton Roundtable (in Hong Kong) and will also reinforce its continued work in 2013, up to and including the 2013 Organic Cotton Roundtable meeting in Turkey. 

 
The 2011 report deduces that the increase in demand and paradoxical decline in organic cotton production is the result of five interrelated issues that need attention across the entire value chain. They are:

1. Disconnect

2. The Data Conundrum

3. Price vs. the True Cost of Sustainability

4. Intimacy and Commitment

5. Interconnectivity

“While it’s easy to focus on the news that organic cotton production is down, at Textile Exchange we take it as just one more challenge along the path to making sustainable change in the industry. On a good note, it’s empowering to see double digit growth in brand and retail demand,” said LaRhea Pepper, Managing Director for Textile Exchange.

“This year, we’re seeing the data align with the conversations we shared at the Organic Cotton Roundtable in Hong Kong. We need to use this Report as a catalyst to keep the conversation going and to help us focus on the areas that really need attention.”

Textile Exchange (Organic Exchange) is a membership-based non-profit dedicated to accelerating sustainable practices in the textile industry.