Sustainability 101: Organic vs Regular Cotton

Sustainability 101: Organic vs Regular Cotton

 There’s a debate in the fashion world about the uses of cotton. You may think that as a natural fibre, cotton is inherently sustainable, but that isn’t the case. Organic, GOTs certified cotton isn’t perfect either, but based on our research it’s the best option for us. We’re always open to learning, so if you have research to suggest otherwise, join the debate. For now, we only use GOTS certified, Indian Organic Cotton. Here’s why, with stats taken from The Soil Association.

Regular Cotton uses up too much water

“Growing cotton accounts for 69% of the water footprint of textile fibre production.  

One kilogram of cotton takes as much as 10,000-20,000 litres of water to produce. 

The majority of cotton is grown in countries that are already facing severe water stress.”

Regular Cotton uses toxic chemicals

“Cotton production requires 200,000 tonnes of pesticides and 8 million tonnes of synthetic fertilisers every year.

Eight of the top 10 pesticides most commonly used on U.S. conventionally produced cotton have been classified by the World Health Organisation as moderately to highly hazardous.

Toxic chemicals also end up in drinking water supplies, not usually in concentrations high enough to cause acute poisoning but enough for chronic low-level exposure that could lead to a range of health problems, including impaired memory and severe depression, and to more serious illnesses such as cancer and infertility.”

Regular Cotton is often made with forced labour

“Many of the world’s biggest fashion brands and retailers are complicit in the forced labour and human rights violations being perpetrated on millions of Uighur people in the Xinjiang region of northwestern China, says a coalition of more than 180 human rights groups. 

As many as one in five cotton products sold across the world are tainted with forced labour and human rights violations.

China is the largest cotton producer in the world, with 84% of its cotton coming from the Xinjiang region.”

 - The Guardian

GOTS certified = better for people and the planet 

Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) ensures factories have met strict social and environmental criteria: 

Only low impact chemicals are used, water and energy is monitored, and wastewater is treated properly before being released. 

Working conditions are safe and workers’ rights are protected.

Organic = better for people and the planet

Organic cotton reduces water consumption by 91% compared to conventionally grown cotton. 

80% of organic cotton is rainfed, not irrigated. This means that organic cotton isn’t competing with precious local water resources.

Organic farmers don’t use toxic hazardous pesticides and artificial fertilisers, which helps keep waterways safe and clean.

Organic cotton supports biodiversity and the wider environment by supporting healthy soils, mitigating the effects of climate change and by preventing toxic substances from polluting habitats. 

Further reading:

Soil Association: Thirsty for Fashion Report

Human rights coalition says cotton produced in camps in Xinjiang region finds its way into one in five cotton products worldwide

The Good On You Guide to Cotton



Latest Articles