Today, there is no area left where we do not feel the impact of transition to sustainable production models. Another part of the issue is that change is due to necessity. It is now clear to everyone that the global economy cannot survive with the increasingly uncontrolled consumption model in the last 20 years. In this context, the supply chains in the textile industry are in a very fast and painful change movement from top to bottom. Although we have been watching the footsteps of this change since 2010, it would not be wrong to state that it has accelerated especially with the pandemic process. Cotton fibre is one of the raw materials most affected by this change and lost its reputation.
As one of the important raw materials of textile, cotton fibre has lost its reputation against other fibres in the last decade, opening up space for alternative fibres in the sector. The fact that many synthetic and cellulosic fibres were preferred over cotton as a result of the loss of reputation has damaged the share of cotton in the total fibre market and continues to do so. While the share of cotton fibre in the total fibre market was 60% in the 1960s, it has decreased to 40% in 2000, 30% in 2010 and 24% today. The sad part is that the biggest market loss for cotton has occurred with the fossil-based and most environmentally damaging polyester.
Yet, cotton fibre has many advantages, compared to its alternatives, with its renewability, its ability to dissolve easily in nature and its photosynthesis feature as a green plant. In addition, considering the existence of millions of farmers and workers worldwide who have connected their livelihoods to cotton growing, the injustice of some of the defamation against cotton becomes even more evident.
However it cannot be said that all smear campaigns against cotton are unfair. Unfortunately, it is true that cotton cultivation continues in many countries of the world with wrong practices in both large and small scale agricultural lands. Excessive irrigation, improper spraying and unsuitability in working conditions of the workers involved in production are the main problems. Still, it should not be overlooked that in many countries, various sustainability programmes, including Better Cotton, have been implemented to eliminate these negativities and have reached significant and measurable results.
“We must provide the sustainability transformation in cotton production to protect our natural resources and existing market”
Many leading apparel and textile brands that can direct the sector have goals to provide 100% of the cotton to be used in the products they will supply by 2025 from sustainable sources and they force their suppliers with very strict approaches to achieve these goals.
Under these conditions, we need to transition from high-cost and environmentally damaging conventional cotton production models, which do not have an economic justification, to more sustainable and traceable models. In this context, as Better Cotton Initiative Association (IPUD), we have been striving devotedly in order to transform the sustainability of cotton production in Turkey since 2013.
Sustainable agricultural practices might sometimes not be the solution to short-term economic concerns of our cotton producers. Because the benefits of the transformation aimed to be created only emerge in the long run and on national / sectoral grounds. In this context, the “Better Cotton Standard” should be considered as a total transformation movement, not an ordinary certification program. Protection of soil health, efficient use of our water resources, ensuring decent working conditions and improving fibre quality are only possible with regional, national and even global transformation.
“Sustainable cotton produciton providing energy and resource efficiency creates national benefits and should be supported by the government”
Due to market conditions, the crops of our farmers can sometimes be priced at unfair levels. Unfortunately, sustainable agricultural practices alone cannot remedy these problems arising from market conditions. Considering the targeted sustainable production transformation and the public benefit to the environment and society, the relevant ministries should make positive discrimination against our farmers who produce sustainable cotton. Otherwise, if our farmers are not supported to encourage sustainable production and if they are allowed to continue production in the old way, we will continue to rapidly destroy our natural resources, on the other hand, we will lose our existing markets by staying outside of the global supply chains.
In order to protect the natural environment in which we are involved, to find the value of our producers’ efforts and to protect our country’s competitive power, we need to complete to generalize of sustainable production transformation in cotton by hand in hand as the government and private sector.
Chairman of IPUD