Organic cotton sourcing interventions: supporting best practices
One of the most powerful instruments OCA harnesses to build a more prosperous organic cotton supply chain is the sourcing practices of our partners. Our sourcing interventions in India are designed to put farmer livelihoods at the heart of the organic cotton sector.
We support our participating partner brands to introduce new sourcing practices in their own supply chains to improve the integrity of organic cotton, secure access to quality seeds, and strengthen the business case for farmers.
Many organic cotton farmers are moving away from organic cotton production due to its relatively unattractive business case. Indian organic farmers receive similar prices for their cotton as conventional farmers yet their yields are generally lower. At the same time, quality organic seed is hard for farmers to access and the lack of transparency throughout the chain prevents brands from understanding who grows their organic cotton, and whether these farmers ever receive part of the higher price paid for organic products at the end of the value chain.
In 2017, OCA–through the supply chains of our partner brands—started rolling our sourcing projects to create a better business case for organic cotton at farmer-level, while improving organic integrity at the source. The pilots involve brands making early and longer-term commitments to suppliers who manage organic cotton farming programs in India, paying differentials to farmers, and helping them access quality seeds. OCA’s data collection and reporting system operates to guarantee transparent and credible tracking of activities to ensure that positive impact at farm-level is secured.
The approach and mindset in this pilot stage is one of transparency and learning-by-doing, where all value chain players engage as partners to understand how to improve and learn from one another.
Currently, the sourcing projects led by our partner brands cover around 1,800 farmers in four Indian states (Gujarat, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Orissa). Based on the learnings across the projects, OCA will establish the necessary support structures to gradually scale and mainstream best sourcing practices in organic cotton. Examples of such solutions that OCA has started scoping after one year of pilot learning is the set-up of an OCA Fund to de-risk the supply chain and facilitate farmer differential payments; and the development of an ISO-reference standard on GMO testing in cotton and textiles to establish a globally recognized guideline for lab testing in organic cotton.
Using a collaborative approach, we support the delivery of impact at farm-level and secure the product integrity of organic cotton. Our actions are aimed at realizing OCA’s mission: a prosperous organic cotton sector which benefits all—from farmer to consumer.