ORGANIC COTTON MARKET REPORT 2016
Twenty years ago we began making all of our cotton products with organically grown cotton. Our switch was preceded by about six years of research and experimentation. I have often told people over the years that when we made this decision the 50 percent of me working on environmental issues was beyond excited, but the 50 percent of me responsible for delivering fabrics that met all of our specifications for design, quality, cost and on-time-delivery was quite nervous. With youth on my side then, I believed we could do anything we set our minds on achieving. We made the change after learning about the amount of pesticides being used to grow conventional cotton–more than any other crop as a percentage at that time. We took tours of cotton farms all over the world and didn’t like what we saw.
Though crop-duster pilots were among the most talented, I personally saw chemicals meant for cotton fields land on trucks of watermelons and in the California aqueduct, which transports drinking water throughout the state. Less than one percent of all cotton being grown was grown organically, so we had to be creative in finding it–and even more creative in convincing our supply chain partners to take the risk with us. With such a small global inventory, if they ran into problems during production it could be disastrous, as they didn’t have much replacement cotton to draw from. We had to build our organic cotton supply chain literally from the ground up without the current trade associations or the Internet to help. It was hard work.