The Organic Cotton Accelerator (OCA), with funding support from the Netherlands Enterprise Agency Fund for Responsible Business (FVO), announced the launch of a multi-year project targeting transparency and fairness across the organic cotton sector.
The project, named Textile in Transition, has attracted brand partners Bestseller, G-Star Raw and Essenza Home as part of their commitment to the Dutch Agreement on Sustainable Garments and Textile. Textile in Transition aims to improve decent working conditions in organic cotton production, and secure the livelihoods of thousands of farmers while boosting the supply of organic cotton.
Funded by the FVO, the project leverages OCA’s established Farm Program in India to support the participating companies in achieving transparency to the source of their fiber while instilling improved buying practices and targeted interventions that improve farmer livelihoods, worker rights and environmental impact.
“The support of the Dutch Fund for Responsible Business truly allows us to deepen and accelerate organic cotton’s potential for positive impact,” Bart Vollaard, executive director at OCA, said. “Not only will this collaboration allow us to integrate the promotion of decent working conditions more effectively in our programs, but the available funds will also support more conventional farmers transitioning to organic agriculture while having committed buyers for their cotton.”
Kicking off this year, the initial phase will provide a detailed mapping exercise of corporate social responsibility risks, with a particular focus on decent work. These insights will allow for better informed and targeted interventions to promote and improve decent working conditions across OCA’s programs in India.
Starting next year, the project partners will start investing directly in supporting farmers undertaking the three-year journey to transition to organic agriculture. The participating brands will be connected directly to Indian farming communities through long-term procurement commitments of in-conversion and certified organic cotton at a premium price, providing security for farmers throughout the transition period and strengthening their business case.
In turn, thousands of hectares of farmland will be regenerated through organic practices, eliminating the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, building long-term soil health and increasing on-farm biodiversity.
“In our mission to improve our social and environmental impact at every step, one of our commitments is that we will use organic, recycled, bio-based and compostable materials only by 2030 latest,” Paulien van der Vegt, chief product officer at G-Star Raw, said. “Through our partnership with OCA, we aim to support and scale organic cotton farming so that not only we can meet our targets, but the entire industry can move toward using more sustainable materials. And because of OCA, we can take the first steps in building direct contact with the farmers, tracing our organic cotton right back to its roots.”
Part of the project’s focus on supporting transitioning farmers will contribute to OCA’s goal of converting up to 30,000 farmers a year from conventional farming to certified organic, as part of its 2030 Strategy. It is hoped that with quality training and support in place through these initiatives, with tangible benefits such as better prices for farmers, there will be a stronger business case for farmers to convert to organic cotton with certainty.
“At Essenza Home, we believe in buying less, but better,” Floor Smits, head of brands at Essenza Home, said. “We think the OCA is a good multi-stakeholder project to help us achieve this by starting at the bottom of our production chain. These tiers in our process are the most difficult to make transparent and therefore we are very happy to be part of this project. Our goal is to help farmers in India switch from growing conventional cotton to organic cotton, in a two-phase implementation. In the end, this will be better for the farmers, for the environment, for ourselves and for the consumer.”