We use organic cotton to create products in a way that enriches the environment and improves conditions for farmers.
What is organic cotton?
Organic farming works with nature, instead of against it.
Organic cotton farming was developed by social entrepreneurs, farmers and NGOs who – like many of us – did not like the overuse of pesticides, or the social problems caused by production practice, including farmer debt and sickness caused by chemicals.
Organic cotton eliminates the use of toxic and persistent chemicals, improves soil health and increases water conservation. All of which is better for the environment, and for farmers and their communities.
These benefits explain why we have been increasing the amount of certified organic cotton we use in our collections over the years. Today, 61% of the cotton we use is certified organic. We use organic cotton across all of our collections and products – we use it in our kidswear, denim, jersey, knitwear, shirting, dresses, shoes and bags.
The benefits of organic cotton
Conventional cotton farming has a significant environmental impact. It requires toxic pesticides and fertilisers, which causes biodiversity loss and can damage farmers’ health. Cotton crops are also highly water-intensive. It can take more than 20,000 litres of water to produce 1kg of cotton; equivalent to a single T-shirt and pair of jeans.¹
Organic cotton farming offers a solution. It is a more balanced way of producing cotton that considers the whole ecosystem.
Organic cotton farming also supports biodiversity and healthy ecosystems, and helps to mitigate climate change by increasing the ability of soils to sequester carbon.
Organic farming techniques use significantly less water as the crops are mainly rain-fed instead of irrigated. And because there are no toxic chemicals used in organic farming, there are no unnecessary toxins going into the ground. This enriches the soil and helps biodiversity to flourish.
Organic cotton farming is also beneficial to farmers. Under the right conditions, organic farming offers better livelihoods because farmers do not have to rely on expensive chemicals. Also, the premium prices paid for organic products helps farmers to increase their incomes. And not using hazardous pesticides and chemical fertilisers is better for farmers’ health.
Types of cotton
- Organic cotton
- Organic cotton is grown without the use of toxic and persistent pesticides and synthetic fertilisers.
- Organic farming requires crop rotation and composting, which promotes soil health and helps lock CO2 into the soil, helping to mitigate climate change.²
- Organic cotton does not use genetically modified seeds.
- Conventional cotton
- Cotton alone accounts for almost 7% of all employment in some low-income countries.³
- Conventionally grown cotton uses more insecticides than any other single crop, nearly $2.6 billion worth of pesticides are sprayed on cotton fields each year.4
- Cotton production uses 2.5% of the world’s arable land, but accounts for 16% of all pesticides used; in India 50% of all pesticides are used for cotton production, with negative impacts on farmers’ health.5
- Organic certifications
- We believe that standards and certifications when used correctly can be one of the most powerful tools in the industry. They support the integrity of product claims by providing verification from an independent third-party.
- We only use organic cotton that has been certified to the GOTS or OCS standard.
- Cotton in the EP&L
- In terms of volumes, cotton is our most used raw material.
- In 2016 around 60% of all the cotton we used in our products was organic.
- Using our EP&L tool, we are able to compare the average environmental impacts of conventional vs. organic cotton farming per kilogram of cotton.
- The environmental impacts of conventional cotton production are driven by the large quantities of water required to cultivate the crop, the conversion of land for agricultural use, and the heavy use of toxic pesticides and fertilisers.
- Organic farming has a much lower environmental impact; it uses significantly less water from local water resources and does not allow the use of toxic chemicals, which improves soil health and reduces water pollution impacts.
The future of cotton
In order to ensure that the cotton we use is being grown in a regenerative way, we are working on gaining farm-level traceability for our cotton. In 2016, we were able to trace the origins of 94% of the cotton used back to the country it came from.
The next step is to map the cotton to the farm-level to gain better insights into on-the-ground practices and measurement of improvements to soil. Soil is an important carbon sink so improving soil health is a vital natural climate solution, and we want to make sure we are doing everything we can to mitigate against climate change.
Cotton supply chain map
4 ‘The Deadly Chemicals in Cotton‘, Environmental Justice Foundation