Los Angeles-based producer and B Corp Gallant International partnered with a prominent cotton co-op to create one of the largest regenerative cotton projects to date.
The private-label apparel and accessories producer of organic, fair trade, carbon neutral and traceable cotton goods has been working with India’s Chetna Organic co-op to transition more than 700 farmers to regenerative organic cotton and promote better soil health by foregoing GMOs and conventional pesticides. This winter, more than 3,500 acres have been Regenerative Organic Certified (ROC).
“We’ve been using organic cotton for nearly a decade, and we’re just so thrilled to take it a step further with this certification,” Vikrant Giri, founder of Gallant and its sister company, bag and accessories brand Terra Thread, said. “Now farmers will not only be participating in the most regenerative practices possible, they will be playing a major role in healing the planet.”
The shift will also help farmers increase their income as they can charge more for in-demand organic, fair trade crops farmed on a rotational basis. “This certification is much more than just a checklist,” Giri added. “We’re working to create a more holistic supply chain that takes care of everyone involved, not just the buyer.” Gallant plans to use ROC cotton to produce a specialized line of woven shirts, knitwear, bags and accessories this year.
While India narrowly trailed China’s cotton production in 2020-2021, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) projections for 2021-2022 show the country inching ahead. India is expected to account for the largest share of cotton globally (24 percent), while China will produce an estimated 22 percent, according to the USDA. A new U.S. law could shift cotton demand away from China to the benefit of producers like India and others.
The co-op underscores the growing importance of sustainable, traceable cotton among brands and shoppers. “India grows much of the world’s cotton but sadly with chemicals, pesticides and GMO seeds,” Chetna Organic CEO R. Nanda Kumar said. “We would like to change that by writing a new narrative for the cotton in the country, by not only being organic and fair trade, but also with regenerative practices.”
The country-wide shift can’t come soon enough, according to executive director Arun Ambatipudi. “With climate change a reality, both agriculture lands and forest covers shrinking, experts world over are advocating for agro-ecological and regenerative agricultural practices,” he said. “For us, it’s imperative to promote a more holistic approach to farming, especially amongst [India’s] smallholder cotton farming communities living in the forest corridors.”
California-based nonprofit Regenerative Organic Alliance, founded by Patagonia, Dr. Bronner’s, and the Rodale Institute, spearheaded the five-year-old ROC program. Farmers and farming communities must meet benchmarks for soil health, animal welfare and social well-being to earn the certification. Farms are evaluated on regenerative practices such as intercropping, encouraging biodiversity, using organic inputs, minimal or zero tilling, and crop rotation that keeps soil covered year-found. Farming systems must be certified fair trade in order to qualify for the ROC distinction.
ROC executive director praised Gallant’s work with Chetna in India, stating that “they have become allies and advocates for the farmers they are sourcing from, and clearly demonstrated that they are on the regenerative journey with the hardworking humans in these communities.”