WHY WE CHOOSE ORGANIC...
Posted on July 16 2019
A few weeks ago we had our annual organic inspection. Every year the Soil Association – our certifiers – visit and look through our books, recordkeeping and warehousing. It’s a long and tiring day – they check our paperwork for every item of stock in and sales of stock out. They check the labelling inside our garments – each garment has an ID tag which can be traced back to specific organic certificates. And, something less well known, they also check staff employment contracts and interview our staff to ensure proper treatment and working conditions. Each of our suppliers, right the way back through our supply chain, undergoes the same process. It’s a lot of work, but it feels like an important and rigorous process.
I first found out about organic cotton when I worked for an environmental charity that was supporting a project in West Africa. I was completely shocked to learn that non-organic ‘natural’ cotton uses more insecticides than any other crop in the world - approximately 25 percent of the world’s insecticides and more than 10 percent of the world’s pesticides. Not surprisingly this has some really nasty environmental and health problems. In many developing countries, small farmers use these sprays next to their food crops increasing the risk of cross contamination and poisoning. In 1990 the World Health Organisation estimated 1m poisonings each year from pesticides, and 20,000 deaths. In a separate report, the UN estimated 200,000 people die globally from pesticides poisoning each year. Whichever estimate is correct, the death toll is clearly tragic.
The Soil Association spells out five clear reasons for choosing organic cotton, and better still, GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standards) certified products provide assurance that environmental and social checks go right the way through the supply chain. GOTS is the globally accepted standard to which national certifying bodies sign up.
According to the Soil Association, “organic means working with nature. It means higher levels of animal welfare, lower levels of pesticides, no manufactured herbicides or artificial fertilisers and more environmentally sustainable management of the land and natural environment, which means more wildlife.”
In our view, things in life are rarely black and white – organic cotton has huge advantages but will not be the only solution and will not be right for all farmers. However, when introduced responsibly, with the necessary support structure, it can have huge benefits for the farmers, their families and the environment.
According to the Soil Association, there are five reasons to choose organic cotton and we’re proud to be part of this movement:
Combat climate change: By relying on natural methods rather than using manufactured nitrogen fertilisers, organic cotton results in a 94% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. By maintaining their health, organic practices turn soils into a carbon 'sink', removing CO2 from the atmosphere.
Save water: By eliminating the use of hazardous synthetic pesticides and artificial fertilisers, organic cotton keeps waterways and drinking water safe and clean. Organic uses 91% less water than non-organic production. Organic farming promotes naturally healthy soils which are more resilient in drought conditions.
Reduce toxic chemicals: Toxic chemicals from artificial fertilisers and pesticides used in conventional farming – many of which are classed as hazardous by the World Health Organisation can– not only poison wildlife and rivers, they kill an estimated 16,000 people each year. Organic textiles are made without hazardous synthetic pesticides.
Transform workers’ lives: Using toxic and expensive pesticides, fertilisers and textile processing chemicals can cause health problems for farmers and factory workers, which can lead to early death. The burden of debt from expensive inputs, often linked to failing GM crops, has resulted in thousands of suicides in India, the world’s largest cotton producer. There are no hazardous synthetic pesticides used in producing organic fibres and GOTS-certified textiles are only made using low impact dyes and inks, with proper protection provided to workers. Workers in GOTS factories also enjoy decent minimum wages, good working conditions and are protected from inhumane treatment, with no child labour allowed.
No GM: Organic fibre production never uses GM seed. The small-scale farmers who produce the majority of our fibres need reliability, not high risks. Using locally available inputs such as seeds and manure, organic farming allows farmers to work with the environment, in a sustainable way with a long-term future. Organic puts choices in the farmers’ hands.