Who grew my jeans?
George Thomas - 03 December 2012
After nine months in the making, we launched the world's first organic cotton campaign in October, and so far the response has been overwhelming!
When Peter Melchett (Soil Association Policy Director) challenged the textile industry to "Cotton On to Organic" at the Sustainable Textile Conference in Hong Kong, pioneering brands, farmer cooperatives and NGOs told us they were relieved and delighted that the organic movement is speaking out about cotton. It was great to get the campaign off the ground.
One of the organic movement's greatest strengths is its networks. As a legally recognised system which has been around for decades, there are hundreds of thousands of people involved who are determined to expand this better system of production: farmers, cooperatives, NGOs, manufacturers, brands, retailers, certifying bodies, standard owners and, in some countries, governments. With this kind of support, demand for organic cotton can only grow. And the global market for organic cotton IS growing: by over 10% in 2012, despite the deep recession in many countries.
Dozens of brands, manufacturers and NGOs have signed up to support the campaign, and many more have told us they're going to come on board. But at the consumer level, it can be tricky to make the issues seem personally relevant.
You don't eat cotton, but someone grows it. Dizzyingly complex global supply chains put a lot of distance between the consumer and the field. So we've got a lot of work to do.
This week I'm heading off to the home of cotton: India. I'll be visiting an organic trade fair in Bangalore (Biofach Bangalore), garment factories certified by the Global Organic Textile Standard, cotton fields in Gujurat, and companies and ministers in Delhi.
I'll be finding out how people at each stage in the cotton supply chain feel about how clothes are produced, and re-connecting with how my clothes are grown!
George Thomas is Textiles Manager for Soil Association Certification, working with the fashion and textile industry to develop the market for organic textiles. Born in Manchester (home of the cotton industry), with degrees from the London College of Fashion, and the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) focussing on the ethics of cotton production, she has worked in fashion PR for sports brand Henry Lloyd and the ethical fashion label People Tree, as well as on development projects for NGOs. Hardly surprisingly, she’s been a driving force behind the joint Soil Association and GOTS Have You Cottoned On Yet? campaign.