Cotton. It is one of the world’s largest and most valuable crops. As one of the most commonly used fibres – nearly everyone on earth comes into contact with cotton in some form every single day – cotton has long been under the critical spotlight when it comes to assessing its true sustainability in the face of scarce resources. With around 300 million people worldwide depending on it for their livelihoods when managed properly, it is a flexible, renewal natural resource used for food, packaging, medical supplies and – of course – the textile industry.
However, right now, it doesn’t have the best reputation. After all conventional cotton makes up only 3% of the world’s total agriculture production but consumes 25% of the world’s insecticides and 10% of the world’s pesticides, and it takes 2700 litres of water to produce a conventional cotton t-shirt. A resource-intensive natural material and the most commonly used fibre it’s no wonder that ASOS decided that it was time to pledge to reach 80% more sustainable cotton by 2020 and 100% sustainable cotton by 2025.
Part of the Eco Edit – Cos caring for the planet is cool’ – these ASOS WHITE Dungarees fall within their collaboration with the ‘Better Cotton Initiative, a non-profit working to improve cotton farming globally and battle the negative impacts of mainstream cotton production. Cotton is currently considered the world’s dirtiest crop due to its heavy use of pesticides, so what does this phrase ‘Better Cotton’ even mean? Well for one, BCI licensed farmers produce cotton which minimises the negative effects of fertilisers and pesticides, whilst caring for water, soil health and natural habitats. That’s the ‘Better Cotton’ they are referring to.
Before, for many of the BCI cotton farmers’ pesticide application was not an educated process, and potential safety problems existed. Through their collaboration with the BCI, cotton farmers’ habits of optional pesticide application have changed, and both production safety and the environmental standards have improved. In turn, keeping the farmers safe from disease by minimising the use of harmful pesticides and more able to protect the precious resource of water.
The BCI was founded over 10 years ago as part of a ‘round table’ initiative led by WWF which convened world experts on different commodities, different initiatives are born all with the goal of finding more sustainable solutions for farmers, for the environment, and for the future of each sector. The Better Cotton Initiative is one of them. By collaborating with organisations such as the Better Cotton Initiative, Leather Working Group, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil and CanopyStyle more and more fashion companies are able to understand the complex nature of garment supply chains whilst giving us assurance on sourcing responsibly.