Why isn’t your favourite brand organic? (pt 3)

The sun is shining, it’s a beautiful Wednesday afternoon and… we thought we’d write a heavy blog about the human cost of inorganic cotton farming! It’s a tricky one, isn’t it? It’s much easier for us to blog about our natural, sustainable clothes – and in turn easier to read about, too. But Sigh use 100% organic materials for reasons at least worth considering so here’s the final article in our recent series and a further insight into why we do what we do.

Turn on the TV, radio, scroll through Twitter or engage in conversation with friends over dinner and debates on organic farming are likely to centre around environmental factors. Before long we end up questioning each other’s future projections and proposing realistic alternatives. However, there’s a substantial and undeniable human impact we should all consider – not for the years to come, but for the many people involved in textile production at this very moment.

Inorganic cotton production uses tens of thousands of acutely toxic chemicals, many of which are classified as hazardous by the World Health Organisation. Workers face wide-ranging and often fatal health risks when exposed to heavily allergenic and carcinogenic residue, both inhaled and absorbed through the skin. The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) – the certified fabrics and dyes we use at Sigh – ensures that the chemicals used to process textiles meet strict requirements by way of safety.

Furthermore, in eliminating the use of the aforementioned toxic chemicals – pesticides in particular – farmers are relieved of unsustainable debt. This is a massive social issue – the burden of pesticide debt has resulted in thousands of suicides in cotton farmers across India, the world’s largest cotton producer.

What is more, and as we know, the situation is desperate with regards to working conditions on the whole, too. The Soil Association’s website simply states; “(p)oor working conditions and rights in the garments industry are common place” – it seems obvious, almost underwhelming as a one-liner, but it’s a blinding truth that we as a society do so little about. To name but a few issues with working conditions in textile production; minimum wages (where they exist) are often far removed from the notion of a ‘living wage’, working hours are excessive, children are forced into labour, workers’ unions are forbidden, people are discriminated against and face inhumane treatment – and much more. GOTS regulates and enforces a social standard that guarantees workers their human rights. The criteria to be met is based on the International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions.

That’s us finished (for now!) on inorganic cotton production. We fully appreciate that it’s been far from uplifting at times, but we hope our reasons for blogging about some of these subjects are understandable. We all love natural clothes and feeling beautiful, but sometimes we’ll work with you to try and raise awareness. Some of this stuff isn’t easy to hear, but it shouldn’t be – there’s a lot of hard work to be done if we’re going to actually make a difference.

We promise our next blog will be cheerier – but, until then, thank you for reading, and here’s to a future that includes happier, cleaner, fairer and organic cotton farming.