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LONDON – Both Oeko-Tex and the Better Cotton Initiative have issued a robust defence of their respective standards following a recent report which claimed that certification schemes have “lost their way” and are failing consumers. The controversial research by the Changing Markets Foundation had focused on eight schemes widely used in the apparel and textiles sectors, and claimed to have found faults in all.

In a statement to Apparel Insider, Alan McClay, Better Cotton Initiative CEO, said: “All BCI’s stakeholders are deeply committed to the work we do and are proud of the positive results farmers applying the Better Cotton Standard System are seeing around the world.

“The Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) is a member of ISEAL – a global association for credible sustainability standards that meet accepted international best practice. BCI adheres to ISEAL’s Credibility Principles, which were defined in consultation with more than 400 expert NGOs, standard setting organisations, government bodies and businesses.”

On the broader issue of cotton sustainability, McClay added: “There are many viable approaches to addressing the pressing sustainability challenges that cotton production presents. BCI views the cotton value chain holistically and integrates the factor of demand into our approach. The Better Cotton Standard System, for its part, focuses on change at field level. Farmers are, and always will be, at the heart of everything BCI does.

“We aim to ensure that as many farmers as possible are equipped to bring about the improved environmental, social and economic sustainability of cotton production, and they, along with their families and communities, experience the benefits of more sustainable production.”

McClay also reiterated that BCI welcomes organic and other sustainable cotton initiatives, as well as making the telling point that, “BCI delivers incremental change on a massive scale; organic standards achieve massive change on a narrow front. What is important is that we are both progressing in the same direction and can achieve synergies together.”

In its response, the Oeko-Tex Association said it considered the Changing Markets report to be “proof of the success of [our] policy,” a reflection of the fact that Oeko-Tex was one of the few standards to come out of the report relatively unscathed.

However, at the same time, Oeko-Tex general secretary Georg Dieners refuted the general claim made by the study that certifications would impede sustainability rather than support it. “Sustainability starts with corporate responsibility and is impossible without it,” said Dieners. “Oeko-Tex guides and supports all efforts made by companies in the textile sector who take their product stewardship, their employees and the environment seriously in order to achieve sustainability at as many levels as possible. This is a continual process of improvement, which is only feasible and promising with strict specifications, transparency and monitoring.”

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