Strengthening Integrity in Organic Cotton 2022


We’re addressing the root causes of integrity issues across the sector.

Building on two decades of work championing organic cotton, we’re setting out to bring greater integrity to the sector by outlining the concrete steps that organizations can take to recognize fraud, fight it, and prevent it from happening in the first place. In this report, we strive to go beyond exploring integrity to focus on practical guidance so that our members can confront a major sector challenge and protect trust in organic—a vital way of tackling the climate crisis.

Key takeaways

  1. Integrity is critically important to the organic cotton supply chain, but upholding it is difficult, and threats to integrity often evolve. Failing to address integrity as a major sector challenge risks damaging trust in organic cotton.
  2. Fraud occurs most often where financial pressure, opportunity, and the potential for rationalization meet. This can be a result of underinvestment, the presence of loopholes, and the perception among supply chain partners that their efforts or the risks they’re taking are not being rewarded fairly.
  3. One way to prevent fraud is by putting restrictions in place and reviewing them frequently. But it is essential to get to the root cause of the problem, not just manage the symptoms. This means helping others through education, to recognize it, address it, and remediate the challenges that cause it to happen in the first place.
  4. To fight fraud effectively and build a robust system of integrity, organizations need to go beyond building compliance through standards and certification towards achieving traceability for organic content, improving incentives for supply chain partners, and collaborating with others.
  5. Organizations can start now by reviewing and mapping their supply networks to see where there are vulnerabilities to fraud, and then introduce and embed an anti-fraud and integrity policy. By monitoring the success of this strategy, organizations can then make adjustments and refinements. This should be part of adopting a policy of continuous learning and improvement.