Corporate Social Responsibility writer for Justmeans, Antonio Pasolini is a journalist based in Brazil who writes about alternative energy, green living and sustainability. He also edits Energyrefuge.com, a top web destination for news and comment on renewable energy and Elpis.org, a recycled paper bag/magazine distributed from health food stores in London, formerly his hometown for over a decade....
Initiative Promotes Sustainability and Social Responsibility in Cotton Production
Cotton is an ubiquitous commodity around the world, and a very useful one, but there are serious social and ecological issues related to the fiber. For one, cotton is the world's biggest user of pesticides - more than 10 percent of the world's pesticides and nearly 25 percent of the world's insecticides, according to the Pesticide Action Network.
Cotton production is also extremely water-intensive, which is particularly worrying since major producers such as Pakistan have serious water issues (apparently, organic farming practices reduce water demand, according to a recent study).
There are also human rights issues related to cotton farming, such as child labor, so improving cotton's sustainability practices and work relations is a crucial task toward progress to sustainable production.
Some initiatives are trying to improve the situation.
Recently, the Aid by Trade Foundation (AbTF) and its Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) initiative and the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), have signed an interim partnership agreement that should see increased effectiveness and efficiency in promoting greater sustainability to African smallholder farmers as well as delivering sustainable solutions for the textile and fashion industry in Europe and North America.
CmiA focuses its attention on improving the living conditions of smallholder cotton farmers in Africa, while BCI does the same with both smallholders and large producers globally. Both initiatives have a similar mandate, that is, improving ecological, social and economic conditions in the cotton industry. They also share complementary approaches.
The 18-month interim agreement will deal with ussues such as child labor, Integrated Pest Management and developing systems to better connect supply and demand. BCI members already can procure CmiA cotton. Since July 01st, CmiA verified cotton can be sold as Better Cotton. The collaboration further defines activities that include a exchange on subjects like impact assessment, verification and financing models.
It's not just companies that can act on the cotton issue. It's time for the consumer to think about their growing consumption of cotton, spurred by fast fashion and accelerated consumerism in general. After all, it takes 20,000 liters of water to make a T-shirt. Owning a great deal of clothing also increases our carbon footprint. As WWF's Jason Clay noted in this article for the UK Guardian, some 70 percent of greenhouses gas emissions associated with cotton clothing originate in the consumer end of the cycle. He suggests we use cold-water laundry detergent, which is as effective as hot water, and can help reduce energy from washing clothes by as much as 90 percent.
Image credit: Cotton Made in Africa