prince charles

COTTON CRISIS: Wool isn’t the only natural fiber that’s grabbed the attention of Prince Charles, who on Wednesday addressed a high-level meeting about sustainable cotton at The British Academy in London’s St. James’s.

The future king of England said cotton production is “all too often associated with the depletion of local water supplies and the widespread, and sometimes indiscriminate, use of harmful pesticides [that] can take a heavy toll on human health.”

He said climate change would only make the situation worse, with higher temperatures and changing rain patterns likely to cause more severe water shortages in important cotton-growing regions. He also pointed out that cotton is beset by rising costs of production and market volatility, making it difficult for farmers to make a decent living.

“Sustainable cotton production has the added benefit of reducing some of those risk factors considerably, and can make a significant contribution to healthy economic growth and higher farm incomes,” the prince said.

Earlier in the day, 13 clothing and textile companies put their signatures to The Sustainable Cotton Communiqué, pledging to use 100 percent sustainable cotton by 2025.

The prince was speaking during a meeting organized by The Prince’s International Sustainability Unit in collaboration with Marks & Spencer and the Soil Association.

The meeting was attended by the companies and by nongovernmental and standards organizations. Organic, the Better Cotton Initiative and Fairtrade also took part.

The 13 companies that signed the sustainable cotton communiqué were Asos, Eileen Fisher, Greenfibres, Hennes & Mauritz, Ikea, Kering, Levi Strauss & Co., Lindex, Marks & Spencer, Nike, Sainsbury’s, F&F at Tesco and Woolworths Holdings.

Together these companies use in excess of 300,000 tons of cotton annually, according to an official statement.

The prince said that with the range of sustainability codes and standards available to companies, and with the costs of doing nothing so high, “it seems to me that there can be few reasons why all companies [that] use cotton should not match the ambitious commitments set out in the communiqué.”

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