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With few buyers, sustainable cotton's future uncertain
14
Apr '16
The sustainable cotton market is facing an uncertain future with few buyers coming forward, according to new research commissioned by Pesticides Action Network (PAN) UK, Solidaridad and the WWF. While production of more sustainable cotton has never been higher, and is projected to account for 13 per cent for global supply for 2015, company buying ('uptake') is lagging behind, WWF has said.

The three organisations have called on major brands and retailers to make and realise commitments to sourcing 100 per cent more sustainable cotton by 2020 or sooner.

Despite at least 12 global companies committing to source 100 per cent more sustainable cotton, only 17 per cent of all sustainable cotton is sold as such. The remaining 83 per cent gets no recognition and is sold as conventional cotton.

“Buying more sustainable cotton has never been easier”, said Richard Holland, Director, WWF's Market Transformation Initiative. “Leading companies like Ikea and H&M are showing it's possible to use 100 per cent more sustainable cotton in their products within a couple of years.”

Cotton is grown in around 80 countries worldwide and is a key raw material for the textile industry, accounting for around 32 per cent of all fibres used. Sustainability issues include the widespread use of pesticides, with 6.2 per cent of global pesticide sales associated with cotton production, and intensive water use, with 73 per cent of global production currently dependent on irrigation.

A number of sustainable cotton standards have been developed in the last 30 years, starting with Organic cotton in the 1980s, followed by Fairtrade in 2004, Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) in 2005 and the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) in 2009. All provide guidance and support for farmers and seek to reassure consumers and retailers that the products they buy are being produced using sustainable farming methods.

While many cotton farmers are driven into debt by the cost of pesticides and fertilisers, sustainable cotton production has the potential to lift farmers out of poverty by providing a more stable income and improving working conditions.

PAN UK, Solidaridad and WWF have commissioned further research to assess and compare global textile companies' policies and purchase of more sustainable cotton with first results of a benchmark undertaken in partnership with Rank a Brand expected in June 2016. (SH)

Fibre2Fashion News Desk – India

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