Textile Exchange and the Organic Trade Association have agreed to work together to strengthen the North American organic textile industry’s public policy influence and public relations efforts.

The two groups have signed a memorandum of understanding to collaborate on legislative advocacy, public outreach and consumer education initiatives. The agreement was signed in conjunction with the recent formation of OTA’s Fiber Council, which was created to provide a cohesive voice across fiber categories within OTA and to grow the North American organic fiber sector overall.

According to OTA’s “2015 Organic Industry Survey,” U.S. organic fiber sales were the fastest-growing nonfood sector, reaching $1.1 billion in 2014, up 18 percent from the previous year. The leading organic fiber is cotton. In 2014, U.S. growers planted organic cotton on 18,234 acres — the largest number of U.S. acres devoted to organic cotton since 1995. According to Textile Exchange’s “2014 Organic Market Report,” global sales of organic cotton products reached $15.7 billion in 2014, a 10 percent increase from 2013. Statistics for 2015 are not yet available.

Marci Zaroff, founder of Under the Canopy and a board member of OTA and Textile Exchange, said the collaboration will propel the organic fiber sector to the next level.

“People want to make organic a bigger part of their lifestyle, but they are often unaware of all the ways that organic fiber can contribute to human and planetary wellness, as well as social justice,” said Zaroff, who was among those instrumental in submitting a petition to OTA to form the Fiber Council and now serves as its chair.

A major goal of this new partnership will be to boost outreach to North American consumers on the benefits of organic fiber and textiles, particularly the environmental and social benefits of growing and processing them, the groups said. Much of the current demand for organic cotton currently comes from manufacturers and brands. With authenticity and transparency as key goals, brands are trying to position themselves to be responsible stewards — becoming more sustainable in their supply chains and more relevant in their core messaging.

Companies recently have reported significant growth in their organic cotton programs, and are increasingly adopting standards addressing fiber and product traceability, such as the Textile Exchange Organic 100 Content Standard or Content Claim Standard. Many manufacturers have also become certified to the Global Organic Textile Standard, a traceable global standard from farm through processing of apparel and home textiles made with organic fiber.

Founded in 2002, Textile Exchange is a global nonprofit organization that works closely with all sectors of the textile supply chain to find the best ways to minimize and reverse the negative impacts on water, soil, air and the human population created by this $1.7 trillion industry.

OTA is the membership-based business association for organic agriculture and products in North America, representing 8,500 organic businesses across the country.

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