Organic Cotton Proactive Planning by the People

This is Part II of the “Organic Cotton Round Table” (OCRT) event at the Textile Exchange Sustainability Conference.  We start by exploring the ideas of the moderator and panel of speakers.  Please click the link for Part I, The positive future of Sustainability and Organic Cotton.

LaRhea Pepper, the moderator, and the panel shared their common interest for:

The Organic Cotton Collective Impact Project (OCCI).

They also shared their five conditions of a Collective Impact that are listed below in the Next Steps in Collaboration – 2019 & 2020. 

LaRhea: “We have to work together in a more strategically aligned way.  We need a sector with a stronger backbone and engagement.  All our activities are linked.  There must be a continuous improvement”

We need to have a common agenda with a shared measurement.  How can we measure along the scale?   How can we make sure we leverage and share our expertise, experience, and insights with more collaborative actions? 

As India is the number one country for growing cotton, we need to explore some of the positive changes we are seeing in India.  The Chetna Organic Farmers Association (COFA) has grown from a small base of 234 farmers in 2004 to over 35,852 farmers in 2014.  COFA focuses on sustainable agriculture and improved livelihoods for Chetna farmers and rural communities.

COFA has a mutual partnership with the Textile Exchange that focuses on the economies of scope more than the economies of scale. 

What is our role in making changes and how are we getting in the way?

BCI (Better Cotton Initiative) we need to have more in common, we often think about ourselves not the farmers.  We have to invest in farmers. 

This is a problem for everyone, for individuals we need to find the issues in our own lifestyles instead of blaming others.  We need to face the challenges in going Organic: the costs, the time commitment, and the struggle to find non-GMO seeds. 

The moderator asked the panel “what are your dreams at this moment that you deem feasible?”    

Sandra Marquardt, Regional Ambassador, Textile Exchange, USA

She would like to:

  • Expand technical assistance and the “toolbox” for organic farmers.
  • Increase consumer education so they understand the need for change
  • Support farmers operating as a collective or cooperative for increased efficiency.

Her dream is that brands become certified from “dirt to shirt” (or “field to finished product”).

Evonne Tan, Regional Data Management & China Strategy, Textile Exchange, Malaysia

Evonne would like very strict standards in China to put on the organic label by exploring alternative names like Eco, Green, etc. 

She would like further support from Esquel, https://www.esquel.com/ and the Textile Exchange, https://textileexchange.org/.

Almost the entire country of China is GMO and is struggling for Organic Certification. 

She believes if you don’t get the seed right, everything else doesn’t matter.    

Silvio Moraes, Regional Ambassador, Latin America, Textile Exchange, Brazil   

A majority of the Cotton Organic production occurs in Peru, with a pilot project Haiti, and some production in Brazil and Argentina. 

Sylvio would like to bring together the farmers and the buyers. He would like to see a sustainable fashion lab.  Right now, there is not a lot of government support in Brazil. 

Scaling is his dream. 

Amish Gosai, South Asia Manager, Textile Exchange, India

India has 3.5 million hectares of certified organic land.  The number one challenge is climate change that is affecting farming and the question is how long the certification of the land will last. 

His dream is: can we achieve happiness in the Organic cotton space.  

Silvère Tovignan, Regional Ambassador, Africa, Textile Exchange, Benin

In the last four years, Organic Cotton has grown by 20% in Africa. 

There is a fair trade zone established within Africa to help with the certification and sale of products.    

His dream is: relieve the shortage of electricity, eliminate all barriers and integrate the supply chain. 

Hammad Khan, Director General, WWF Pakistan

Cotton is called White Gold.  40% of the workforce in Pakistan is in some way involved in cotton and textiles.  Most of the cotton requires irrigation.    

There are some sustainable cotton programs with support from the private and public sectors.  The availability of seed is a problem. 

His dreams are:  setting up a better cotton initiative and for his province to become the first organic cotton province

Lakshmi Poti, Programme Manager, Sustainable Raw Materials, C&A Foundation, India

All of the programs are because of the partnership (WWF) working together in a collaborative format. 

She would like to see more and more involvement of the government in creating awareness of the struggles and opportunities. 

Everyone recognizes cotton is a part of the economic system.  She would like the local hot spot approach to expand into a national focus. 

Her dreams are more transparency among industry farmers and consumers. With easier access to the seed. 

Aydin Unsal, Chairman of the Board at Egedeniz Textile, Turkey

Turkey is one of the top five cotton producers in the world.  The country is a leading producer of Organic Cotton.  Premium prices have been coming down. 

We are exploring Greece and Egypt, which produce a quarter of the world’s Organic Cotton.  Without Organic growers, the future will be challenging. 

His dream is: Grow substantially peoples awareness about climate change.

Summary

Sustainability and Organic Cotton needs to be a part of everyday reality.  You can stay abreast of the industry by checking out the Organic Cotton Market Report

You can also check out the upcoming event: The 2nd Regional Organic Cotton Round Table (OCRT) West Africa.

The next Textile Exchange Sustainability Conference will be in the first week of November 2020 in Dublin, Ireland. To stay abreast of the Organic Cotton Round Table (OCRT), please click this link.

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