In 2012, after many years of steady growth, production of organic cotton began to decline. Yet demand for organic cotton fiber continued to grow. In response to the decline, Textile Exchange declared a Call to Action and initiated the Organic Cotton Round Table (OCRT). The inaugural meeting of the OCRT was held as a pre-conference event to the Textile Exchange annual conference in Hong Kong in November of the same year.
A diagnosis of the reasons behind the drop in production – and much stakeholder enquiry – resulted in the OCRT arriving at three main areas of focus. Task forces for “Business Models”, “Seed & Soils”, and “Consumer Engagement” were created with small advisory groups working electively to develop strategies for action.
The OCRT quickly became the “place and space” for stakeholders to get together to hear more about issues facing the organic cotton sector, to diagnose these issues and most importantly find ways to take action. One of the unique features of the OCRT is that it brings representatives of the entire supply chain together.
During the first three years of life (2012-2014), the focus of the OCRT has been an annual in-person meeting of organic cotton producers, manufacturers, brands, retailers and support organizations. Following the inaugural meeting of the OCRT in Hong Kong in 2012, the 2nd annual meeting was held in Istanbul in 2013, the third in Portland in 2014, and the fifth will be held in Mumbai on 8th October 2015.
Each year interest has grown and in 2014 the OCRT was able to raise funds to the seed task force and support the incubation of the Organic Cotton Accelerator (OCA) and “ChetCo” (a coalition of brands working with Chetna, an organic cotton producer group); a promising sign that the OCRT can catalyze action pre-competitively. TE decided to invest resources in developing a microsite, which is currently in beta phase.
Where we are now
The OCRT is at an exciting stage of evolution - where the interest and energy is high amongst the TE organic community and there has been some investment in specific task force strategy and activities.
There is still much to do to get to the next stage of transforming organic cotton supply chains into organic cotton communities. Interestingly, the current situation (of declining production and barriers to growth – coupled with the energy and enthusiasm for transforming the cotton sector) in many ways provides the ideal breeding ground for this transformation!