New Study Released by Textile Exchange Shows Organic Cotton is Proven to Cause Less Environmental Damage than Conventional Cotton

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Long-Awaited data is first to quantify environmental benefits of organic cotton cultivation including less water and energy use.

The release of the Organic Cotton LCA marks a turning point for the organic cotton sector as a whole...

Textile Exchange, an international nonprofit organization committed to a more sustainable textile industry, is releasing the results of an international Life Cycle Assessment that demonstrates the tangible benefits of organic cotton cultivation. The life cycle study tracked organic cotton fiber production and represents worldwide global production. The results are overwhelmingly supportive of the organic process, showing significant reduction in global warming potential, soil erosion, water use and energy demand.

Textile Exchange (TE) engaged PE International, a global market leader in sustainability strategic consultancy, to conduct the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). The study is based on data from producer groups located in the top five countries of organic cotton cultivation; India, China, Turkey, Tanzania and the United States. These countries account for 97% of global organic cotton production. The LCA investigated the impact of organic cotton cultivation in the categories of climate change/global warming potential, soil erosion and soil acidification, water use and consumption and energy demand.

To put the findings of the study into perspective, the results were compared to a separate independent peer-reviewed study of conventional cotton.* The two studies were done independently and the comparison is of indicative value only. The most significant findings when comparing organic cotton to conventional are:

  •     46% reduced global warming potential
  •     70% less acidification potential
  •     26% reduced eutrophication potential (soil erosion)
  •     91% reduced blue water** consumption
  •     62% reduced primary energy demand

Textile Exchange embarked on this study to meet the growing need for data that verifies the benefits of organic cotton.

“The release of the Organic Cotton LCA marks a turning point for the organic cotton sector as a whole,” said La Rhea Pepper, Managing Director of Textile Exchange. “For 12 years, we have been promoting the benefits of organic cotton. This study allows us to show the quantitative data that supports what we already know – that organic cotton is much better for our environment than conventional cotton. This information is empowering for the people and organizations along the organic cotton supply chain, including farmers, cotton ginners, spinners, brands and retailers and all the way to the consumer level. Making a commitment to grow, manufacture, and use organic cotton in our textiles is also making a commitment to improve our water, soil and air.”

The Organic Cotton LCA was funded by 14 Textile Exchange member organizations including C&A Foundation, EILEEN FISHER, Esquel, GOTS, H&M, ICEA, Inditex, Kering, MEC, Nike Inc., Otto Group, PrAna, Pratibha Syntex and Tchibo.

“We are constantly on the lookout for innovative materials and processes that can make our products more sustainable, said Erik Karlsson, Environmental Sustainability Coordinator for H&M. “This valuable analysis into organic cotton supports these efforts, and validates our focus on more sustainable materials.”

TE works with over 200 textile industry members including large brands and retailers, manufacturers, farmers and small, start-up brands. TE member organizations share a common goal to improve the sustainability of the textile industry. While concrete data existed for conventional cotton, TE saw a growing demand for comparative data for organic cotton among its members as well as industry-wide.Textile Exchange has committed to sharing this data worldwide so that it can be used by everyone involved in the textile industry. The summary is available at: http://farmhub.textileexchange.org/farm-library/farm-reports. Full data report available on request from farm(at)textileexchange(dot)org. Textile Exchange will also hold a webinar on the 3rd of December to further explain the study and conduct and open question and answer session.

LCA Review Panel
The LCA has been peer-reviewed by three of the leading figures in the field. The expert review panel was chaired by Ing. Paolo Masoni, Research Director at ENEA in Italy. Ing. Masoni is President of the Italian LCA Network and advisor to the Italian Ministry of Industry, the Italian Ministry of Research, and the Czech Republic government, among others. He was joined by Dr. Niels Jungbluth, CEO of ESU-service, Switzerland. Dr. Jungbluth is a special advisor on the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and sits on the editorial board of the “Journal of LCA.” The third reviewer was Dr. Christian Schader from the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture in Switzerland (FiBL) and co-author of the UN FAO’s SAFA Guidelines on the Sustainability Assessment of Food and Agriculture Systems.

About Textile Exchange
Textile Exchange is a membership-based non-profit organization dedicated to accelerating sustainable practices in the textile industry. We envision a textile industry that protects and restores the environment and enhances lives. Industry Integrity is foundational to the work of Textile Exchange, and seeks to support the transparency and integrity of sustainability claims in the marketplace. Other TE standards include the OCS standard and the Global Recycled Standard. To learn more about Textile Exchange, visit our website: http://www.textileexchange.org.

About PE International
PE International is the international market leader in strategic consultancy, software solutions and extensive services in the field of sustainability. PE International provides conscientious companies with cutting-edge tools, in-depth knowledge and an unparalleled spectrum of experience in making both corporate operations and products more sustainable. Applied methods include implementing management systems, developing sustainability indicators, life cycle assessment (LCA), carbon footprint, design for environment (DfE) and environmental product declarations (EPD), technology benchmarking, or eco-efficiency analysis, emissions management, clean development mechanism projects and strategic CSR consulting. http://www.pe-international.com

*Conventional Cotton LCA can be found here: Cotton Inc. LCA
** Blue water refers to water withdrawn from groundwater or surface water bodies (e.g. via irrigation). The blue water inventory of a process includes all freshwater inputs but excludes rainwater.

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Donna Worley
Textile Exchange
since: 12/2010
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