Launched in April 2021, the vertical denim company’s Soorty Organic Cotton Initiative (SOCI) has achieved an In-Conversion Year-1 (IC1) certification, which is provided by the Control Union (CU), a third-party certification firm. The achievement confirms the transition to organic farming, which is a lengthy process that Soorty reports can take up to four years before a certifiable organic cotton bulb springs forth.
SOCI was developed by Soorty in partnership with WWF-Pakistan, the Department of Agriculture Extension, Balochistan, and with support and input from the Laudes Foundation, which provides partners with philanthropic capital, expertise and connections. Through the program, Soorty aims to bring organic farming practices and a better way of life to farmers in the Balochistan region of Pakistan. It launched with a goal to improve 7,000 acres of land, helping to produce more than 17,000 metric tons of seed cotton and 6,000 metric tons of cotton lint by 2025.
By joining the program, farmers learn regenerative farming practices and gain the opportunity to help fulfill the overwhelming demand for organic cotton. To-date, nearly 1,000 farmers from Naal, Balochistan have become a part of the program.
“SOCI is proving to be a game-changer, not just for Naal, but for the organic cotton trade,” said Asad Soorty, Soorty Enterprises director. “We’re very happy that, through their efforts, farmers from Khuzdar have been able to secure the IC1 certification for their cotton and, because of this, access to a bigger premium payout and a chance for upward mobility for the community.”
The transition to organic cotton cultivation is especially significant for Pakistan, a country that depends on cotton product export. The fiber requires fewer, if any chemicals or fertilizers, meaning it’s safer for farmers and the environment. This, along with its regenerative properties, makes it a hot commodity for the apparel industry. The demand for organic cotton is increasing, with brands such as Danish retailer Bestseller setting a target of sourcing 30 percent organic cotton by 2025, and H&M Group introducing in-conversion cotton to its sustainable material portfolio.
Farmers are scrambling to meet the demand for the crop. The Organic Cotton Accelerator (OCA), an initiative dedicated to increasing the world’s organic cotton supply, recently reported a 350 percent increase in the number of farmers in its Farm Program during the 2021-22 cotton season compared to 2020-21.
Recently, OCA and the Netherlands Enterprise Agency Fund for Responsible Business (FVO) launched Textile in Transition, a multi-year project aiming to bring more fairness to the organic cotton sector. It leverages OCA’s Farm Program in India to enhance transparency around the fiber’s origin and elevate buying practices that improve farmer livelihoods, worker rights and environmental impact. The project has already attracted brand partners Bestseller, G-Star Raw and Essenza Home.
Next up, SOCI is expanding its reach by partnering with OCA and providing quality non-GM seed to farmers. It also plans to secure a 7,000-acre farming site that’s currently producing conventional cotton. The program will assist in the transition to organic, and aims to produce over 5,600 metric tons of cotton seed.