TEXTILE EXCHANGE ORGANIC COTTON ROUND TABLE
11th November 2013
The Marmara Taksim Hotel, Istabul, Turkey
The Organic Cotton Round Table was founded in 2012 to create a platform to discuss the key barriers to growth faced by the sector. A critical role for the Round Table is to identify ways forward for sustainable change and for the benefit of all stakeholders. In 2013 we met in Istanbul for the second meeting of the Round Table (Conference Agenda).
Highlights from the Global OCRT 2013 Istanbul
Task Force Meetings
Task Force 1: Business Models
The emphasis of this meeting was on the need for reinvigorating the business investment model for organic cotton. Although the organic cotton sector experienced tremendous growth in the period 2002 ($240 million) to 2010 ($5.16 billion), the sector has stalled in more recent years. According to Textile Exchange research, textile retailers and brands report plans to grow their organic cotton products by more than 30% over the coming years. This however does not seem to be getting through to the supply side where output volumes are falling. In preparation for the Task Force Meeting, Textile Exchange initiated further research into current sourcing practices and challenges to understand the key root causes for this disconnect. The findings were presented at the meeting and form the basis for discussing more sustainable approaches to organic cotton trade and sourcing amongst retailers and brands.
Task Force 2: Seed Strategy
The Seed Task Force Meeting brought together key industry stakeholders with significant expertise, experience and interest in this topic. The increasing scarcity of high-quality, non-GMO seed poses an ever growing threat to organic and Fairtrade cotton (as well as other cotton) farmers and certification. The session was a chance for stakeholders from producer group representatives, manufacturers, NGOs, seed experts and breeders and representatives from other cotton initiatives to discuss the need for immediate action and investment in non-GMO cotton seed and supportive policy, particularly in India where the problem is urgent.
Open Forum – In Collaboration With Fairtrade International
The Round Table Open Forum, to which we invited all conference participants, focussed on Engaging the Consumer. We heard stories and statistics from industry representatives on successful consumer engagement.
Leading Industry representatives including Eileen Fisher, C&A, Tchibo, Ethicus, and Soil Association got us started.
Harriet Lamb, CEO, Fairtrade International
Harriet delivered a brilliant key note speech; sharing her experiences and insights into the success of the Fairtrade Mark. Harriet also introduced Fairtrade’s new partnership model.
Followed by a brainstorming session for strategising and next steps. Meeting highlights captured by TE Graphic Reporter, Carlotta Cataldi.
Update since Hong Kong
Following the success of our inaugural meeting in Hong Kong in 2012, we were excited about continuing the conversation at the Round Table in Istanbul, Turkey on 11th November 2013. The Round Table forms part of Textile Exchange’s Annual Textile Sustainability Conference. The main focus of the 2013 Round Table was to follow up on the decisions taken in Hong Kong which were to:
- Establish task forces on reinvigorating the business investment model of organic cotton (summary note from Hong Kong here)
- Establish task force on investing in seed suitable for organic cotton agriculture (summary note from Hong Kong here)
- Understand how best to engage consumers and raise awareness of the benefits of organic
Since the previous meeting, Textile Exchange had worked on advancing these agendas by initiating the Collaborative Learning Series titled Rethinking and Reframing Sustainable Sourcing. This webinar series covered six inter-related topics with the goal to re-think and re-frame our approach to trade with the view to secure the future of organic cotton. The series together with our ongoing blogs on these issues were a unique opportunity for participants to explore some of the challenges and best practices concerning more sustainable sourcing of raw materials, in a new and innovative way.
OCRT 2013 partners
We were delighted to announce that the 2013 Round table was sponsored by the GAP Regional Development Administration (GAP RDA) based in the South East Anatolia region. The GAP RDA was working in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to help accelerate development that is both sustainable and economically competitive in this region of the country. Read more about this fascinating project here.
Our partnership with Fairtrade International continued to thrive in Istanbul. Organic and Fairtrade initiatives share very similar values, and many grower groups in developing countries (and brands/retailers) choose to be both organic and Fairtrade certified. We also share some of the challenges and barriers to growth such as securing farmers access to non-GMO seed, and finding mutually beneficial ways for producers and brands/retailers to work together – in a way that provides positive environmental impacts, long-term security for farmers, and opportunities for farming communities to flourish.