On October 14th I had the honor of presenting at a seminar entitled "Challenges for a Sustainable Textile Industry" that was organized by the Taiwan Textile Federation (TTF) and the International Cotton Advisory Committee (ICAC). The event ran alongside the Taipei Innovative Textile Application Show (TITAS), which ran from 13th-15th October.
Presentations were very informative and ranged from the man-made fiber supply and demand trends, advances in cotton production technologies, innovation in textile processes, to name a few. Participants included TITAS participants, cotton supply chain professionals, and ministries of foreign affairs, amongst others.
I discussed what I see as a trend towards more vertically aligned supply chains to support the promotion and use of sustainable cotton by retailers and brands. I framed my presentation on the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) because it is designed for mainstream use and uptake and its support by global brands, cotton industry associations and supply chain actors. BCI is a global, multi-stakeholder initiative that aims to promote measurable improvements in the key environmental and social impacts of cotton cultivation worldwide to make it more economically, environmentally, and socially sustainable.
BCI was also fresh on my mind because the week prior BCI offered US stakeholders an opportunity to learn more about BCI and its supply chain system. During the BCI workshop participants heard first hand from various members of the supply chain - from an Indian BCI farmer and a cotton ginner to a trader and BCI retailers such as Levi Strauss & Co and H&M.
The BCI workshop participants included retailers such as Gap Inc., William Sonoma, Nike and Kohl's, ABRAPA (Brazilian Association of Cotton Producers) and organizations such as As You Sow, Cotton Incorporated and U.S. National Cotton Council, among others. Other supply chain actors have recently BCI.
The level of interest, support shown and range of participants at these two workshops indicate that virtually all members of the cotton supply chain are interested in sustainability. This is encouraging as I continue to be a proponent of industry-level support so that the image of cotton as a responsible and sustainable fiber is strengthened. However, industry-wide support will not likely take root for many years. In the meantime, we need vertical supply chains that more easily, efficiently and transparently link sustainably grown cotton through the supply chain to a brand or product.
With this said, what really struck me at the Taiwan seminar is the sole question that was asked - "if global brands are going to develop vertical supply chains, won't this shut out the smaller actors?" I think this was an excellent question - and is one that I try to address through Cotton's Revolutions governance blog and resource library.