Out of the Box Series 2: West Africa’s Cotton Trailblazers

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Just launched! A powerful and thought-provoking interview series that will give you a unique insight into the wealth of talent, knowledge and leadership that exists in West Africa’s cotton sector; a sector that is fast gaining attention on the international stage.

2018 event Highlights

In September 2018, Textile Exchange launched its first Regional Organic Cotton Round Table (OCRT) in West Africa, held in Koudougou, Burkina Faso, in collaboration with Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) during the inaugural Salon International du Cotton et du Textiles (SICOT). The week of events bought together pioneers driving sustainability across West Africa’s cotton sector, and we were fortunate to have an Emmy-nominated documentary producer, David Bowen-Jones of TVPP, with us to capture their thoughts on camera.

The result is a series of 19 inspiring interviews, which we are delighted to share with you. Three or four interviews will be released each month until October 2019 and added to this page. Keep an eye out for new releases announced through Textile Exchange’s newsletter (sign up at the bottom of our homepage), or via our Facebook and twitter

Watch the first three interviews, released in April 2019, below!

African Fashion: The next generation

François Yameogo, Designer and Founder of François 1er, is a promoter of African fashion and is keen to share his experience from France with the next generation in Burkina Faso. He sees the value in organic cotton and the need to develop small-scale facilities to build on this.

encouraging responsible growth

Heather Chaplet, Founder and Designer at Xoomba, tells us why she chooses to source from this region and shares her vision for the local textile industry. Heather suggests ways to encourage responsible growth such as customs discounts for organic and finished products.

boosting efficiency and quality

Paul Allen, Technical Director of Ethical Apparel Africa, recognizes how fabric production is still the missing link in West Africa, and talks about his work training local factory management in improving efficiency and quality; crucial attributes for attracting brands and investment.

trade over aid & entrepreneurship

Jaqueline Shaw, Founder of Africa Fashion Guide, discusses value addition in African textiles, the potential of artisanal and luxury products, her belief in trade over aid, and the power of Africa’s entrepreneurial mindset .

local knowledge & a common vision

Bená Burda, President of Maggie’s Organics, and Justin Hendrix, Strategy and Partnerships Manager for Ethical Apparel Africa, discuss market linkages in organic, the value of local knowledge, and the need for a common vision.


Jan Sass, Executive Director of Cotton Expert House Africa, discusses the need for economic clusters to improve value creation in Africa, and the importance of consumer awareness in driving market changes.

Driving technology & production

Boubacar Kamissokho, Chief of Party for CRS’ RECOLTE Project in Burkina Faso, discusses the market conditions required to drive technology and production in Burkina Faso, and also tells us about the potential the new organic cotton gin will bring.

The work, Values & integrity of CRS

Carla Brown-Ndiaye, Country Representative for CRS in Burkina Faso, tells us how CRS supports organic cotton farmers, the values and integrity that guide how CRS operates, and the importance of working collaboratively.

The role of economic optimism

Christian La Pietra-Fung, USAID Country Representative for Burkina Faso, talks of the importance he sees in growing economic optimism in Burkina Faso in light of its rapidly growing population and security issues, and the role that organic cotton can play in this.

Out of the Box Series 1: Business as if people mattered

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We took the opportunity during the 2016 Organic Cotton Round Table (OCRT) in Hamburg to interview some of the industry’s most inspiring and “out of the box” thinkers, and were fortunate to have Emmy-nominated documentary producer David Bowen-Jones with us to capture their thoughts on camera. The result was an inspiring and thought-provoking series of ten interviews, which we are happy to be able to share with you here.

Business as if People Mattered

In his Out of the Box interview, Leo Johnson discusses his idea that developments in technology could enable a ‘radically distributed’ ownership structure, encouraging greater freedom and participation.

Efficiency From Stability And Trust

Heinrich Schultz, Managing Director of OrganiMark, South Africa, discusses how securing commitment builds trust, increases efficiency and reduces cost.

Creating Stakeholder Value

Integrity expert Joy Saunders discusses how integrity benefits all stakeholders, and research which shows that the greater the integrity of a company, the greater its competitiveness and profitability.

The Economy Of Love

Helmy Abouleish, CEO of SEKEM, Egypt, introduces the company’s holistic approach to sustainable development, which ensures the added value of their products is redistributed fairly through the supply chain.

Engaging The Consumer

Roland Stelzer, Managing Partner of Elmer & Zweifel, explains how the company went from selling throw-away medical products in 1987 to, today, selling organic Fairtrade garments through its brand Cotonea.

Sealed With A Handshake

Jimmy Wedel, President of the award-winning Texas Organic Cotton Marketing Cooperative, urges brands to educate consumers and leverage their knowledge of organic food to build demand for organic cotton.

Using Data To Drive The Market

Peter Melchett, Policy Director at the Soil Association UK, explains that, to grow the market, we need to use the wealth of data and evidence now available to convince brands and retailers that it’s in their own interest to source organic cotton.

Harnessing The Power Of The Market

Anita Chester, Head of Sustainable Raw Materials at the C&A Foundation, talks about the importance of finding ways to work collaboratively, both at the government level and at the brand level, to harness the power of the market and create real change.

Cooperation, Transparency & Faith

Michael Sligh, Program Director at RAFI USA, describes the need for more honest and open conversation across the supply chain to build synergy and aid peer learning, proposing a new model built on cooperation, transparency and good faith.

Shifting from product to people

Bob Bejan, Microsoft’s GM Communication Strategy, discusses the shift from a product to people-based mentality. Witnessing a “drumbeat of shared aspirations”, he observes how, across industries and societies, we are increasingly reaching for the same goals.



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About organic cotton

Organic cotton is cotton that is produced and certified to organic agricultural standards.

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Preferred Fiber & Material Round Tables


2017 Market reports

The 2017 Preferred Fiber & Materials Report and the Organic Cotton Market Report are joined by the "Insider" Series.

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PFM Benchmark

The Preferred Fiber & Materials (PFM) Benchmark helps companies measure, manage and integrate a PFM strategy.

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A framework for assessing the environmental, social & economic impacts of organic cotton agriculture.

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A selection of some of the key terms and abbreviations used in the industry.



  For more information, don’t hesitate to contact the team at: OCRT@textileexchange.org