Sustainability may actually be the new black. And if you’re an apparel brand without a sustainability pledge, you may soon find yourself out of the “in” crowd.
Thirty-six major brands and retailers have now signed up to the 100 percent sustainable cotton by 2025 pledge, Textile Exchange announced at its Sustainability Conference in Washington, D.C. this week.
Cotton has gotten some bad press with environmental groups and the sustainably-minded in recent years for its over-use of pesticides and water, and for its greenhouse gas emissions, and now more and more brands are turning to sustainable cotton—driving demand for it up.
Brands that have made the pledge include Asos, H&M, Kering, Levi’s, Nike, Adidas, Burberry, Burton Snowboards, prAna and Timberland, to name a few.
“The industry is awakening to the necessity of sustainably grown cotton,” Textile Exchange managing director La Rhea Pepper said. “It is great to see additional brands joining this initiative to accelerate the momentum of cotton production in a way that will positively impact smallholder farmers, water quality and soil health.”
Cotton is the most widely produced natural fiber in the world, and though it only covers 2.4% of the world’s arable land, it accounts for 6 percent of global pesticide use, according to Textile Exchange. Conventional cotton can also use as much as 2,720 liters of water to make one T-shirt, and climate change and other shifting weather patterns are already adding to severe water shortages. What’s more, according to Textile Exchange, these issues are also leading to the increased prevalence of pests, which negatively affects yields.
“Burton has a responsibility to protect the people and playground that sustain our sport and lifestyle,” Burton Snowboards CEO and co-owner Donna Carpenter, said. “We recognize that there are social and environmental costs associated with producing our products. We are continuously striving toward sustainability in our production practices, including the materials we source. Burton is proud to join other industry leaders in this pledge, which is aligned with our commitment to sourcing 100 percent sustainable cotton by 2020.”
[Read more cotton news: PAN UK Report Cites Uneven Progress in Pesticide Use in Cotton Farming]
The new sustainable cotton commitments are expected to help alleviate the pressures cotton production is placing on an environment that won’t be able to take excessive abuse for too much longer.
“This is exciting work as we move beyond just minimizing environmental impacts to strategically creating real environmental and social benefits within the supply chain,” Timberland environmental stewardship manager Zachary Angelini, said.
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