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AMSTERDAM – The C&A Foundation and Textile Exchange have responded to Apparel Insider research which claims there is no clear evidence that cotton standards such as CmiA, organic and BCI are any more sustainable than conventional cotton production methods. “You don’t need LCAs to know that organic production methods are better for land and for farmers,” LaRhea Pepper, managing director of Textile Exchange told Apparel Insider. Anita Chester head of sustainable raw materials at C&A Foundation acknowledged that the Life Cycle Assessments (LCAs) which much cotton research is based on, “are limited and don’t readily allow for comparison.” She also echoed our calls for more primary data and better measurement tools.

Among other things, our research claims there is is no clear evidence that either Cotton Made in Africa grown cotton or organic cotton consume less water when grown under the same conditions as conventional cotton, and that the most up to date research actually found that organic cotton consumed 15 per cent more bluewater than conventional cotton based on the experiences of cotton farmers in India.

We also suggested many of the comparisons between different cotton production methods are focused on LCA data which, according to ISO standards, cannot be used – in isolation – to make comparative sustainability claims.

In addition, we said the Higg Index overstates the negative impact of conventional cotton while understating the negative impact of CmiA and organic cotton.

In an op-ed for the next edition of Apparel Insider, LaRhea Pepper says: “We do know that cotton farmers as a whole are some of the most impoverished. Maintaining the status quo isn’t changing things for the better. The good news is that there are islands of good that are growing, where farmers are getting a fair price and training to improve yields utilising crop rotation. Organic cotton is now grown in 20+ countries with over 100 programmes and projects. Programmes that have strong market partners are having strong steady growth and more brands are investing in farmer training.”

Anita Chester of the C&A Foundation said they welcomed the debate on cotton sustainability. She added: “While we work to improve the quality of data, and work with the industry to tackle market barriers and help ensure farmers are receiving fair premiums for their produce, we cannot turn a deaf ear to farmers experiences and we cannot continue to let them fend for themselves. All we can do is help find solutions and create opportunities for farmers to choose the ones that work best for them. Let us continue the necessary debate on numbers and calculations, on methodologies and comparisons, and continue to bring the sector together to harmonise and collate data so that we can in fact compare across standards and regions.Cotton.

The next edition of Apparel Insider magazine will include a special 6-page report on this critical issue, in addition to responses by leading cotton standards and international apparel brands.

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