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Fashion Industry Fails To Address Cotton Sustainability

Only 9 of 82 largest cotton-sourcing companies source 99% of their cotton from certified sources, a new report has found.

A new report published by Solidaridad Europe and the Pesticide Action Network UK (PAN UK) has found that the vast majority of international fashion companies are failing to address the sustainability challenges of cotton production.

The report, titled “Cotton and Corporate Responsibility,” found that only 9 of the 82 largest cotton-sourcing companies in the world are sourcing 99% or all of their cotton from certified sources. The remaining 73 companies are either not sourcing certified cotton at all or are only sourcing a small percentage of their cotton from certified sources.

A 76-year-old women picks cotton on October 20, 2005 in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region city Maigaiti, China. 73 Cotton-sourcing Companies are Either not Sourcing Certified Cotton at All. CHIEN-MIN CHUNG/GETTYIMAGES

The report also found that many of the companies that are sourcing certified cotton are not doing enough to ensure that their suppliers are meeting the high standards set by the certification organizations. For example, the report found that many companies are not requiring their suppliers to pay fair wages to cotton farmers, or to provide them with access to training and support for climate adaptation.

Fashion wages distribution. 78% for brands and retailers, 9% garment producer, 5% farmer, 4% dyeing and finishing, 2% spinner, 1% knitter, 1% ginner. ZENGER

The report’s findings are a wake-up call for the fashion industry,” said Tamar Hoek of Solidaridad Europe. “They show that the current corporate practices are leading to social and environmental harm and that more needs to be done to ensure that cotton production is sustainable.”

The report’s authors say that the findings are “deeply concerning” and that they “highlight the urgent need for fashion companies to take action to address the sustainability challenges of cotton production.” They call on companies to improve their transparency, to invest in smallholder climate adaptation, and to ensure that their suppliers are paying fair wages.

The report also marks the launch of the Sustainable Cotton Hub, a new platform that will bring together experts from organizations working in and around the cotton sector to share knowledge and best practices. The hub will also provide recommendations on how major stakeholders can address the critical sustainability challenges of cotton production.

“Nearly half of smallholder cotton farmers are poisoned by pesticides every year. Zero pesticide poisoning is possible today if textile and apparel companies choose to take responsibility for their supply chains and deepen investment in supporting a transition to agro ecological cotton production,” said Rajan Bhopal, of PAN UK.

The report’s findings are a clear call to action for the fashion industry. If companies want to be sustainable, they need to start taking action now.

Edited by Rachmad Imam Tarecha and Joseph Hammond

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