The 2020 ‘Sustainable cotton ranking’ was published by PAN UK, Solidaridad and WWF recently. As per their ranking, Adidas ranked the top, IKEA and H&M became 2nd and 3rd respectively.
It was reported that the global production of sustainable cotton in 2017-2018 was 21%. Quite an improvement as it was only 12% in 2015-2016. But in 2017-2018, only 25% of the sustainable cotton was pulled by brands and retailers as sustainable cotton and the rest was sold as conventional cotton.
All the sustainable initiatives on cotton are positively contributing to ecology, economy and society one way or the other. Like organic promoting natural seeds and less use of harmful pesticides, herbicides and chemicals in growing cotton.
Others are encouraging and educating farmers to use optimum inputs, standard agricultural practice in growing, collecting seed cotton and ginning. More and more requirements for sustainable cotton from Brands and Retailers would definitely make the cotton value chain more sustainable.
For organic cotton, the main source is India and the price is a minimum of 8-10 cents per lbs less than any other variety. On the other hand, for BCI (Better Cotton Initiative) there are many growths available and it is the major source of sustainable cotton.
CmiA (Cotton Made in Africa) is available in large quantities with good quality, both with Mass Balancing option and HIP (Hard Identification Particulars). It can also be used as BCI, LEEDS, MyBMP and Fair Trade (FT) though Retailers and Brands do not prefer it.
Cotton quality depends on the soil, seed variety, climate, availability, cotton collection, grading, ginning and marketing. But culture plays a big role in ensuring quality, productivity and sustainability as it takes time to change either on the positive or negative side.
There are a lot of examples of poor quality to great quality (Australia) over time and vice-versa (Zimbabwe). So, before selecting a growth it needs to be studied in detail to make a good decision.
To ensure optimum quality not only the quality of collected seed cotton is enough but ginning also plays a very important role. Normally, roller ginning is used for long-staple cotton while saw ginning is used for medium and short-staple cotton. Cotton irrespective of staple would give better length, better uniformity, lesser short fiber and neps, lower grades/leaf/trash if ginned through roller ginning process. On the contrary, was ginning would do the opposite.
Therefore, before making any comment, application or decision on a particular lot of cotton it is better to know the ginning process of that lot.
Contamination and stickiness
It is always better to eliminate contamination (Including PP) and stickiness at the beginning or at the initial stage. To handle contaminated and sticky fiber mills have some special arrangements before blow room to manage the problem who buys those as a part of their plan.
In the blow room, it is not bad to have two contamination detectors in one line if they say they produce organic yarn regularly. Having contamination clearer in the winding is the last resort.
Spinning is a mass production process and the flexibility of the mill with respect to dealing with contamination and stickiness of cotton varies due to the requirement of the target customer, machine layout in pre-blow room, blow room and winding. So, contamination and stickiness of cotton must be kept in mind before procuring any lot or running any lot or selling any lot.
We end our discussion regarding the selection of the right cotton. I tried my best to share what I think is important but still many important points might be missing. Yet I think this series would help students of cotton who started their journey. I hope over time they would build a comprehensive knowledge upon it.