By Liz Warren
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Levi Strauss & Co. (LS&Co.) is the latest to join the Organic Cotton Accelerator (OCA), a multi-stakeholder organization that brings supply security and measurable social and environmental impact to organic cotton farming. Organic cotton is in high demand for its chemical-free, regenerative properties that are reportedly better for the environment and workers.
By joining the OCA as a contributor, LS&Co. will help increase the global organic cotton supply, which only made up 1 percent of global production in the 2019-20 crop year. And thanks to its massive reach, the heritage denim brand’s participation will help the program empower organic cotton farmers. The OCA reached more than 12,000 farmers through its farming program from 2019 to 2020, during which 2 percent of participating farmers earned on average 2 percent higher net income from their cotton than conventional farmers.
“We are proud to join the OCA because for the first time, we’ll be able to source direct from organic cotton farmers and work with others to identify scalable solutions for the industry,” said Jeffrey Hogue, LS&Co. chief sustainability officer. “OCA is unique in that it unites the global organic cotton sector. It enables measurable improvements to farmers’ livelihoods and local communities, creating conditions for change. This partnership strengthens our strategy to source more sustainable cotton for our products and provides new opportunities to solve the challenge facing our industry.”
LS&Co.’s participation brings the brand closer to reaching its goals of sourcing more responsible fibers. In a sustainability report published in September, the company pledged to reach 100 percent more sustainable cotton by the end of 2025.
OCA is gaining traction in the denim space, as Pakistan-based denim manufacturer Soorty recently signed on as a contributor, in addition to bolstering its own organic cotton initiative, Soorty Organic Cotton Initiative (SOCI), one of the first private-sector projects set up to facilitate a shift to a more ecologically and socially responsible cotton agronomy.
Earlier this month, OCA launched Textile in Transition, a multi-year project targeting transparency and fairness across the organic cotton sector. The project has attracted brand partners Bestseller, G-Star Raw and Essenza Home. Funded by the Netherlands Enterprise Agency Fund for Responsible Business, it leverages OCA’s established Farm Program in India to support the participating companies in achieving transparency while improving farmer livelihoods, worker rights and environmental impact.
More farmers are also getting involved in organic cotton growing through the OCA. In March, the program reported a 350 percent increase in farmers participating in its Farm Program during the 2020-21 season compared to the year prior.
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