In Hamburg, a record 220 thought leaders, farmers, textile and fashion industry executives gathered for the fifth OCRT, emerging with clear initiatives focused around its three Task Forces – Seed and Soils, Business Models, and Consumer Engagement – creating material change to move the organic sector forward. Explore the outcomes of the round table in print, picture, audio and video through the OCRT In Action 2016 Report.
These key highlights are very high level – please refer to the OCRT In Action 2016 Report for full session summaries and links to audio, video and graphic recordings from the day.
50 years ago, German economist E.F. Schumacher started writing his groundbreaking book “Small is Beautiful”. Since then, we have been told that big is better, but Leo challenged this. He spoke of the need to combat rural-urban migration, the way technology is connecting people and previously isolated communities, and how this can lead to the “massive small” – an interconnected system of many small interventions that together can have a massive impact.
You can find more recordings of keynotes and panel discussions inside the OCRT In Action 2016 Report.
The big “emerging ideas” coming out of the discussion were the concept of the “massive small”, including more localization and fairer distribution of:
What does co-existence of organic and GM cotton look like? What needs to happen to achieve it? – These questions were put to our panel of experts. Here’s what they said:
Africa holds great potential to become a major producer of organic cotton, but its progress has been slow. In this discussion, the key opportunities and challenges to expanding production in Africa were identified.
ACTION: Establish a working group to develop African Sourcing Hubs, work on priorities raised, and connect producers to supply networks.
This region grows and processes organic cotton close to European markets. The group discussed the unique benefits this presents, and how to further build on these opportunities.
ACTION: Initiate a “Regional-OCRT” in Turkey, in collaboration with the Izmir International Fair.
This group agreed that the future of farming is connected to the ability of farmers to sustain livelihoods. The tone was urgent, and three key areas to innovate were identified: open costing; business partnerships with governments; and the need for a platform to share financial models.
ACTION: Establish a “Fair Financing” working group to take ideas forward.
Organic farming naturally takes care of things like bio-diversity, water, and social justice, but current standards do not explicitly include sustainability criteria, incentivize best practice, or provide a roadmap to assess impact and support improvement. Do we need a framework and incentive scheme for continuous improvement?
ACTION: Set up a working group to assess the business case for “Organic Beyond Certification.”
Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) brings circularity and transparency to the next level. Key discussion points were: agriculture is a continual process and there is currently no method available to measure criteria such as soil organic matter; the need for cotton LCAs to be more region-specific; and should include broader sustainability data.
The OCRT is now the official face-to-face meeting place of the Global Organic Cotton Community Platform (GOCCP). During the lunch break, members of the GOCCP got together to discuss plans for its future. The uniqueness and usefulness of the platform was agreed, however, since current funding is coming to an end, new funding partners are urgently needed to invest in upgrades and ensure the on-going care needed to deliver its full potential.
Action: Develop strategy for further integration of the GOCCP, including funding for its continuation and improvements.
It’s important to have checks and balances (compliance procedures) throughout the supply network, but compliance alone is insufficient. Integrity is vital. Joy Saunders outlined some creative responses to integrity challenges that can build greater resilience and business sustainability into the organic cotton sector. Peter Melchett expanded on this foundation by providing real-life examples from his experience with organic food and the Soil Association to show the benefits of organic in an increasingly chemically exposed world.
The Task Force explored findings of TE’s recent white paper on GMOs and contamination challenges. The consensus was to dig deeper into root causes whilst also clarifying best practice in testing methodologies. Initiatives in India and the US were presented on the day, with a focus on success factors. There was clear interest in connecting the global network through an online platform, where information and initiatives on seed, and even actual seed cultivars, could be shared and exchanged.
ACTION: Set up a working group to scope out an Online Seed Platform
The Task Force focused on how to take theory into practical and tangible approaches to ensure trade is fair, finance and business rewards get to farmers, and young people choose organic agriculture as a career. It was agreed that not one size would fit all. Diversity is good and leads to even more innovation. Both the ChetCo “buyers club” and OrganiMark’s “open book costing” were shared.
ACTION: Set up a working group to model innovative pricing mechanisms and pilot a social impact bond initiative in India.
The consumer microsite “aboutorganiccotton.org” is now in six languages and is starting to gain traction. Next steps for social media include building out an ambitious and powerful campaign. This year we were privileged to have communications guru Bob Bejan from Microsoft running a Task Force workshop. The interactive session was orientated around reaching the consumer: Who is she or he? What medium and delivery mechanisms work best? A Master Class video of the workshop will be available soon.
ACTION: Seek funding for the development and execution of a consumer campaign
This year marks Patagonia’s 20th year in organic cotton and Rachel Cantu shared with us the story of Patagonia’s journey to 100% organic cotton. The take home messages are:
Organic is still at only 1 percent of cotton production. This hasn’t changed much over the past 20 years. We need more brands to take the step.
A 2 percent increase in soil carbon sequestration would counteract climate change. Organic regenerative farming supports this.
The OCRT is the right place to be having these conversations.
Recap on the highlights, or re-watch full panel discussions and key notes, in this selection of videos from the 2016 OCRT in Hamburg. Then dive even deeper through our Out of the Box interview series, filmed in Hamburg with some of the industry’s most inspiring thinkers.