EPISODE 33: Why this material should be on your list of things to source
Organic cotton, in-conversion cotton, transitional cotton, organic farming, sustainable sourcing, biodiversity.
Welcome to the Fashion Unearthed podcast. If you need help navigating the fashion industry sustainably, you have come to the right place. I'm your host Belinda Humphrey and my hope is to simplify the fashion industry so that businesses can make the best decisions for people, planet and product.
Hello, and welcome to episode 33 of the Fashion Unearthed podcast. In today's episode, I want to talk about a way that businesses are supporting and partnering with farms in their transition away from conventional farming. In particular, it's a transition away from conventional cotton farming. As I've mentioned before, organic cotton is one of the highest growth areas when it comes to garment materials. It's becoming the standard and many businesses are changing their cotton to be organic cotton and including it in their future material goals.
Now, just as a refresh, organic fibre is grown using organic agricultural systems that replenish and maintain soil health and fertility, expand biologically diverse agriculture, and they also prohibit the use of synthetic toxic pesticides and fertilisers as well as genetically engineered seeds.
But even with businesses making commitments to transition all cotton to organic cotton by 2025, or whatever year they've put as their goal, the current supply of organic cotton is an issue which is driving up prices. According to a Textile Exchange report, they're forecasting an 84% increase in demand for organic cotton by 2039 compared to 2019/20. So you can see there's a real problem at the moment to be able to even get your hands on organic cotton and at a price that's workable.
Which brings me into today's topic, the material that I want to talk about, it's called in-conversion or transitional cotton, which is the cotton produced while farms are transitioning to organic farming methods. The transition time depends on the organic standards applied, for example, the European Union requires 24 months as a transition period, but India and the United States require 36 months.
But it has an important role to play for a few reasons. One reason being that without conventional cotton farms transitioning to organic companies will not be able to realise their organic cotton sourcing goals, which sounds a bit superficial, but it's good for the planet that businesses want to use organic cotton. There are many positive benefits such as soil improvement animal and plant biodiversity, as well as the health of the people working on the farm.
But while it is good for the planet, it's financially costly for the farmers to commit to this process. Initial expenses are greater and they'll also experience a reduced yield and change can also feel risky to a long term conventional farmer. And I also want to mention that during the conversion process, all inputs like seeds and herbicides are organic, it's the biodiversity and health of the soil that is carefully monitored. In the first year of transition, there will be traces of harmful chemicals and pesticides used in previous years. But over the transition period, these reduce significantly enough to be certified as organic.
This growing awareness of the need to support farmers through this transition has led to brands including in conversion cotton on their approved sustainable cotton lists. You need to be careful about how you label it, for example, in the US, you aren't allowed to use the term organic in conjunction with the terms transitional or in conversion on a label, but by using it the farmers get a benchmarked market price for IC one, IC two IC three, which improves each year. So "IC1" for example is just "in conversion" and the number of first of the year. So IC1 is in conversion cotton from the first year of transitioning. So if you're looking to move to organic cotton, perhaps look at supporting farmers by using in conversion or transitional cotton. You can still get certification for this and it's a way of supporting the farmer through this process allowing them to sell their crop while they're in the process of getting certified.
Let me know if today's episode has got you interested in using in conversion cotton or anything else that came up after listening to today's episode. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or direct message me on Instagram @belindahumphrey_Finally, you'll find the show notes for today's episode on the website in the podcast section. Thanks so much for listening. See you next time.
Disclaimer: Whilst every effort is made to ensure that information is accurate at the time of recording, much like the fashion industry itself, this information may change.