Experts share solutions for cotton concerns

From field to fashion, experts attending Solidaridad’s Sustainable Textiles Lab agreed that it’s possible for every brand, in every segment of the market, to purchase sustainable cotton instead of conventional cotton.

Learning at the lab

More than 70 apparel and textile professionals joined the second Sustainable Textiles Lab hosted by Solidaridad and Schuttelaar & Partners in Utrecht on 5 March. The goal of the lab was to inspire, inform and encourage companies to take concrete steps in promoting and using sustainable cotton. During the lab, participants gained insights from industry experts and took part in a House of Commons style debate. Speakers included Isabelle Roger (Solidaridad), Hester Bos (KUYICHI) and Arnoud van Vliet (Zeeman).

The discussion panel pictured above represented an actual sustainable (cotton) supply chain with Arun Ambatipudi (Chetna Organic) as producer, Rajat Jaipuria (Rajlakshmi) as manufacturer and Gert Drost (Fair & Co) as importer of textiles.

Janet Mensink, Solidaridad’s international programme coordinator for cotton and textiles, reflected on the event, thanking all participants for an inspiring session. “Sustainable cotton is possible and there are different ways for how to do this,” she said. “There are additional benefits such as mutual commitment and cooperation, and more reliable and efficient supply chains. Sustainable cotton is the way forward. Only a few years ago it was just 1% of the cotton market. Today this has already grown to an 8% share. In the near future, we will reach the tipping point of 30%, which will be the start of sustainable cotton as a mainstream commodity.”

Opportunities for change

The cotton supply chain is rife with issues that are detrimental to people and the environment. Harmful pesticides are used, water is scarce, poverty is common and labour conditions are poor. Despite this, lab participants are positive that effective solutions can be found. Cooperation between companies, organizations and governments is key to improving the sector, according to the panel experts. These entities will need to demonstrate commitment, empathy and transparency to achieve positive changes in the supply chain.

“So why should brands and retailers care? To ensure the long-term availability of cotton seeing as it makes up 35% of the textile industry and to keep up with the [slowly growing] demand of customers. It can also be an opportunity for companies if they include sustainable sourcing as part of their marketing strategy,” said Isabelle Roger, senior programme manager for Solidaridad cotton programmes.

Together with Schuttelaar & Partners, Solidaridad is organizing a series of Sustainable Textile Labs this year to bring industry experts together on critical issues pertaining to the cotton and textile sectors. If you would like to know more about the labs or are interested in participating, please send an email to

Would you like to see more of the event? Then take a look at the photo album provided by Jos Kuklewski from J.K. Images here