How we’re working to boost organic cotton

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Compared to conventionally-grown cotton, organic cotton is both more expensive and challenging to grow. In partnership with OCA, Organic Cotton Accelerator, KappAhl is working to promote organic cotton worldwide and to improve conditions for the growers who supply that hotly coveted climate-smart material.

Given that it’s the best option for people and the environment, why don’t we at KappAhl use only organic cotton?

The simple reason is that there isn’t enough organic cotton to meet demand.

Why?

Well, fact is that, in terms of hard cash, it’s more profitable for a cotton grower to join BCI (Better Cotton Initiative) and comply with their principles, which include using less water and chemicals and taking social responsibility for employees. From an economic perspective, the next best option for the grower is conventionally grown cotton. Organic cotton currently offers the worst financial returns.

More complex and expensive

“Unfortunately, growing organic cotton is more complex – and therefore more expensive – than conventional cotton. For example, to change from conventional to organic growing, the soil can’t have been exposed to chemical pesticides for three years. Buying non-GM seeds is expensive, and organic crops can provide slightly smaller yields,” says Eva Kindgren de Boer, project manager sustainability at KappAhl.

While as a buyer you will certainly pay more for organic cotton, that extra money often doesn’t make it to the grower, instead going to middle men. Despite the fact that handling organic cotton fibres or making organic cotton clothes implies no extra costs for them. OCA wants to ensure that extra money goes directly to the growers instead.

“That’s a must if we’re going to get more people to grow organically, and to get those who already do so to continue,” says Kindgren de Boer.

Cheating does occur

Demand for organic cotton outstripping supply has led to some rogue players appearing on the market – cheaters, in short.

“Organic cotton has to be more traceable and transparent, and OCA is working with other organisations to address this problem. Cotton that is labelled as organic obviously needs to have been grown the right way,” Kindgren de Boer explains.

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Organic cotton

Organic cotton is grown without any chemical pesticides, fertilisers or genetically modified organisms (GMOs), which among other things promotes better soil quality, a greater diversity of cultivars and healthy ecosystems. In all, however, organic cotton represents less than one per cent of the global cotton market.

OCA, Organic Cotton Accelerator

OCA is an international organisation that, through co-operation and knowledge-sharing, unites industry players in order to increase the supply of organic cotton, improve conditions for organic growers and increase transparency in the industry. This includes teaching organic cotton growers about how to increase their yield per square metre, and about what they can grow alongside cotton to boost their income.

We have been OCA partners since 2016.

Posted by Annakarin Thelin

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