Plenty of niche, eco-conscious fashion brands have popped up in recent years, but it looks like some of the major players are starting to get on board with greening up their practices. ASOS, IKEA, H&M, Levi Strauss & Co., and Nike are among 13 big fashion brands who have pledged to use 100 percent sustainable cotton by 2025, as part of a U.K.-based effort lead by the Prince Charles, under his International Sustainability Unit. The pledge was announced on May 24, 2017.
The aim of the pledge is to help reduce the environmental and social impacts of cotton farming, and The Huffington Post UK reports that as part of the effort, all 13 brands are going to be required to publish information by 2018 on their progress toward reaching their target.
Back in May, WWD reported on the high-level meeting about sustainable cotton that Prince Charles held at The British Academy in London’s St. James’s. During the meeting, Prince Charles noted that cotton production is “all too often associated with the depletion of local water supplies and the widespread, and sometimes indiscriminate, use of harmful pesticides [that] can take a heavy toll on human health.”
He believes that climate change will only make an already troubling problem more perilous, given that higher temperatures and shifting precipitation patterns are likely to cause more severe water shortages in important cotton-growing regions.
And at the same time, farmers are struggling to make a living, due to the volatility of the market. “Sustainable cotton production has the added benefit of reducing some of those risk factors considerably, and can make a significant contribution to healthy economic growth and higher farm incomes,” the future king of England said.
Since the meeting, others have spoken out in support of the Prince of Wales' initiative. Peter Melchett, the policy director at Soil Association,a UK organization devoted to supporting farmers and growers, tackling food and farming challenges, and promoting organic living, said in a statement: "The Soil Association warmly welcomes the commitment of these companies to move to 100% sourcing of sustainable cotton by 2025. This is a significant moment and a demanding commitment to achieve existing standards—organic, Fairtrade, Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), Cotton Made in Africa and certified recycled cotton."
Melchett noted that although some of the companies onboard have a further way to go than others, overall, the push to switch to organic cotton will support "a way of farming that directly benefits both the local and global environment. Organic cotton farming has been proven to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and water use and virtually eliminates the use of pesticides."
What's more, farmers who grow organic cotton enjoy some added benefits, Melchett explains. “Organic cotton farmers grow a variety of crops to minimize pests and diseases and to maintain healthy soils, which means farmers have the additional benefit of a more secure livelihood, and secure access to food," he said.
How fantastic will it be that we can feel even better about shopping at these stores, knowing that they're committed to making such a difference? Clearly, this move will serve as an all-around win for consumers, farmers, and the planet.