Cotton is our most important natural fibre – we use it in three quarters of all products we sell, and it accounts for half of the volume of everything we buy.

It is an incredibly valuable resource that improves the lives of millions – from the farmers who grow it, and the spinners who turn it into thread – to our customers who love wearing it. At the same time, cotton is an extremely polluting raw material – and uses a lot of water to grow and to process.

Supply chains are often long and complex, the person that grows the cotton is unknown making it really difficult for us to understand conditions under which the cotton has been grown in, including the livelihoods and impacts on farmers and their families.

We strongly believe that organic cotton achieves the best outcome in the long term for the livelihoods of cotton farmers, their environment and the overall impact on global issues including water usage and climate change. It also gives us the great opportunity to get visibility of our supply chains through to farms.

Converting all of our apparel to 100% organic cotton by 2040 is a stretching and ambitious goal. We plan to achieve this goal by working with local experts, other brands and stakeholders to secure its sustainability so cotton remains an important part of what we do in years to come.

Targets and Progress

5%
Organic
Cotton
Usage by 2020

This is a long term goal for a reason. If we converted to 100% Organic Cotton today, Superdry demand alone would account for 12% of global organic cotton production – this would in turn put more pressure on an already oversubscribed resource which accounted for only 0.47% of global cotton production in 2016.

We have established gradually increasing volume-based milestones for 2020, 2025 and 2030. These milestones work alongside our plans to invest in farms, seeds and target our investment to stabilise and grow the Organic Cotton value chain.

We started out in December 2017 by placing our first test buy for selected Orange Label Tee styles – initially sourcing raw Organic Cotton bales from certified farms and feeding into our own supply chain to test integrity. We have since identified a pipeline of suppliers to help us reach our first milestone in 2020 – focussing on four suppliers of Polos and Tees in India and Turkey initially.

Groundwork for 2025 and 2030

We have also set out an initial country and category entry strategy to help us achieve our 2025 and 2030 milestones to utilise existing supplier and source country capacity for producing organic, maximise the volume procured compared to cost of organic premium and focus our resources on securing transparency by specific product supply chains.

Disruptive Investment

The critical success factor of achieving our milestones is to invest in and disrupt the existing cotton value chain – of which organic accounts for just 0.46% of global cotton production (2016) – to support its growth and long term sustainability.

We plan to initially work existing cotton farmers to support growth and long term sustainability through maximised yields, enhanced livelihoods (including access to premium) and environmental stewardship.

With the objective of working collaboratively and learning from others, we joined the Organic Cotton Accelerator (OCA) in January 2018, and through this organisation have invested in organic seed research in India to build the business case and stabilise/support growth of the Organic Cotton sector.

We aim to build a strong business case for existing organic farmers, support farmers in conversion and increase visibility through our supply chain to enable the equitable distribution of income. Our investment in farm systems includes three years of training – in partnership with Cotton Connect, starting with 1,000 farmers covering:

1. Winter/poly cropping

Linking farms into organic food supply chains to diversify production, maximise organic income, reduce crop failure risk and ultimately ensure farmers experience Zero Hunger (SDG 2).

2. Agronomic practices

Maximised yields through sound organic farming practices and encouraging healthier soil systems. Organic cotton material water footprint by 95% through encouraging healthier soil systems – ultimately supporting Life below Water (SDG 14) and Life on Land (SDG 15).

3. Farmer business school

Starting in 2019, farmers will be provided with baseline training on business practice to best leverage their crops and maximise their income, supporting Decent Work and Economic Growth (SDG 8) for farmers and their families.

4. Gender empowerment

We also plan to work with female farmers – offering support and education on gender specific challenges including health and wellbeing of themselves and their families – and helping support greater Gender Equality (SDG 5) in farms.

Source of figures: Textile Exchange