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Sustainable cotton in focus at Kingpins Amsterdam

Denim trends come and go, but cotton is the constant common denominator for most jeans. At a panel discussion at Kingpins Amsterdam, experts from cotton-growing regions discussed the current state of affairs in the global cotton business. From the debate on what’s sustainable, to cotton-growing initiatives that are finally taking shape, denim experts shared their perspectives on the current cotton market.

Brands and retailers are reacting to sustainability, but in different ways. Some companies are in it to do the actual right thing, whereas others are doing the minimum required to give consumers a feel-good feeling. Swedish furniture company Ikea decided to switch to 100 per cent sustainable cotton in 2015. Now Ikea only uses cotton that’s either recycled or grown with less water, chemical fertilizer and pesticides. Pakistan’s Artistic Milliners takes a 360-degree approach to sustainability. From cotton, water recycling, energy conservation and the company’s CSR activities, the goal is to always take the sustainable path.

However, an organic cotton farm works 10 times harder than a conventional cotton farm using the latest technology for growing cotton. Organic requires more inputs and is harder on the environment. Even if denim wants more organic cotton, there are larger players in the field. The cotton market is moved by the home textile industry. The reality is that the market will dictate what the results will be.

More than that, brands need to hit suppliers where it hurts the most. It pays, it seems, to give suppliers ultimatums. They should tell suppliers to be 100 per cent sustainable, because if not brands are not going to buy anything from them.