It is time to buy some new clothes, especially jeans. In addition to the usual issues I have finding a pair that actually fits, I am also dreading the idea of buying more cotton which is notorious for heavy environmental impact. Enter the Better Cotton Initiative, which is coalition of cotton producers, clothing designers and retailers sharing a common goal to make cotton production, “better”. By “better” they mean “better’ than currently. This goal primarily focuses on lessening the environmental impact of cotton production, but also focuses on increasing the economic viability of those who do.
The group includes a good number of well known brands and retailers, These include H&M, Adidas, Baby Bjorn, IKEA, Levis, Nike, Puma, VF Corporation (many clothing brands), Tommy Hilfiger, etc. This is helpful, because these brands (and stores) are part of extensive demand systems that transform the worldwide demand for fashion and clothing into specific cotton production targets. A variety of other organizations in the cotton industry around the world are members, also.
Significantly, Better Cotton is not designed to be specifically “organic”. Nor is it designed to be specifically “fair trade” per se, even though either are perfectly fine under the principles of “Better Cotton”. The general idea is to publicize and support the idea of cotton production that is an improvement on current methods. Environmentally, this means in large part using less water, maintaining healthy soil, land conservation, etc. Beyond these aspects, “Better Cotton” also aims to enhance the capacity of smaller producers to produce cotton in a more sustainable way.
However, “Better Cotton” is not just for the industry. It also for the consumer, as evidenced by the brands and retailers on board. The brands and retailers are ordering, transforming, and distributing huge amounts of cotton—if no one is willing to buy the “Better Cotton” products, then the entire effort will have a serious problem. On the other hand, if an increasing number of consumers are demanding cotton “better” than currently available, the “Better Cotton” will get a very important boost indeed.
Once again, it is ultimately up to the global consumer to value the “better” product, and make the entire effort viable.