The ‘organic craze’ in the last decade has moved far beyond the fashionable confines of the middle class, now firmly entrenched in every economic stratum –clearly consumers now demand to know where and how their products come into being. This new consciousness is a very positive result of both companies and customers responding to our global challenges of economic disparity, climate change and resource allocation.
So, although the figures for organic food products have fallen in the UK in the last year by almost 4%, it seems organic cotton has struck a chord with consumers with sales figures up by 2% in 2011 (even during a recession), according to the Soil Association in the UK. What does this mean? It means that giant high street brands like H&M, and M&S are making strident efforts to increase their clothing lines with sustainable, organic cotton. This move, in turn, means that farmers growing the cotton are exposed to less pesticides, better overall environmental impact and it helps promote healthy agricultural practices around the world. Everybody wins. But, the challenge, as always, is to convince even more consumers that the extra cost to ‘go organic’ is worth it. But, it seems this battle is being won without elaborate marketing – consumers, across the board, want their garments to be fair trade, ethical and organic.
This is just an auspicious start, however, as almost 65% of “world cotton production currently comes from genetically-modified crops,” according to the SA. The down side of GM crops are many – they’re less sustainable long-term, farmers are often unable to vary their crop selection and they use much more water – but, as with any business, what the customer wants, ultimately decides the course of action that the business will take. The customers, at least for organic cotton, have spoken; it is now up to other manufacturers to see the benefits and continues the trend.