World Cotton Day: The importance of using responsibly sourced cotton

The meaning of sustainable cotton for garment makers

In 2021 the United Nations proclaimed World Cotton Day to be celebrated every year on 7th October to raise awareness of the importance of using responsibly sourced cotton, the ‘white gold’ grown in more than 100 countries representing a vital source of fibre and food for least developed and developing countries.  

Providing income for more than 250 million people around the globe and employing around 7% of labour in developing countries, cotton is the “largest profitable non-food crop” on earth according to the WWF. Due to all the negative effects its production has on the environment, more and more textile manufacturers are opting for responsibly sourced cotton for their garment factories.

A number of brands have come under pressure to make their supply chains and business models more sustainable after a report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) revealed that the fashion industry produced 10% of global carbon dioxide emissions and used approximately 1.5 trillion litres of water annually.

Additionally, recent reports about forced labour cotton practices in Xinjiang, China, has pushed many retailers to stop using the Chinese product for a more responsibly sourced cotton, generating boycotts to brands like Adidas, H&M, Nike, Puma and Zara in the Asian country.

Despite textile manufacturing being -in essence- the same across the industry, workwear fabric production is completely different to fast fashion in terms of sustainability, as a garment used to protect a worker could last for long time before it would need to be replaced.

It’s important for global workwear fabric manufacturers to make sure that their fabrics not only pass rigorous tests to guarantee their protective features and appearance, but also they use responsibly sourced cotton and supplies in their production.

At Carrington Textiles, for example, we provide our customers cotton from the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) for a more environmentally friendly alternative, organic cotton, or recycled cotton to support a circular economy so the cotton can ‘live again’. We also make our suppliers -and their suppliers- adhere to our code of conduct based on the UN Global Compact. That way we ensure we don’t use cotton from geographies where it’s well known that harsh and unethical practices are utilised in cotton farming. Most of our suppliers also carry 3rd party accreditations such as SA8000, GOTS, or OekoTex STeP where there is an audit performed on working conditions.

There are many alternatives available in the market to guarantee the use of the best sustainable cotton for fabrics, these include organic, in-conversion, recycled, BCI and Fair Trade Cotton. Whatever the option, we all need to create positive change in the industry by collaborating with stakeholders and ensuring the use of responsibly sourced cotton is constantly at the top of the textiles’ industry agenda.