Since introducing South Africa’s first clothing made from 100% organic cotton in 2004, Woolworths has been spearheading initiatives to establish a local pipeline for organic cotton. Their efforts have now borne fruit, as this summer sees the planting of South Africa’s first commercial scale trial crop of organic cotton. Woolworths, it was recently announced, is the world’s third largest consumer of organic cotton, behind American giants Wal-Mart and Nike. Currently, all the organic cotton Woolworths uses comes from outside South Africa. That’s about to change. Together with the ComMark Trust, Cotton SA and the Organic Exchange, an international organisation dedicated to expanding global supplies of organic cotton, the South African retailer has been instrumental in setting up the pilot programme which is currently running on a number of farms in the Eastern Cape and Limpopo under the direction of the Agricultural Research Council’s Institute for Industrial Crops. “As part of its Good business journey, Woolworths is committed not only to promoting the use of organic cotton, but – and perhaps even more importantly – to fostering the growth of a local organic cotton industry,” says Darren Todd, Woolworths Group Head of Design, Sourcing & Technology. “We firmly believe that South Africa offers tremendous potential for growing organic cotton and have been working very closely with the Organic Exchange and local organisations including Cotton SA and the Agricultural Research Council, for some time now,” says Todd. “We are encouraged by the enthusiasm that is being shown by the farmers who are taking part in the trial and look forward to expanding local production in the future. “We are particularly excited by the prospects that organic cotton offers, not only as a rotational crop for our organic produce farmers, but we also believe that organic cotton is a powerful vehicle for facilitating the economic empowerment of our country’s previously disadvantaged small-scale farmers.” Comments Rebecca Calahan Klein, Program Director of the Organic Exchange and a fierce proponent of organic cotton, “As consumers are becoming more ‘green aware’, companies around the world are using organic cotton and other organic fibres to step more lightly on the planet. Organic fibre production must continue to increase at a rate of 40% per year to meet projected demand. We commend Woolworths for taking a leadership role in South Africa and are pleased to be playing a role in the birth of South Africa’s own organic cotton pipeline.” ENDS EDITOR’S NOTES *Woolworths Good business journey, announced by CEO Simon Susman on 19 April 2007, is an acceleration of Woolworths’ ongoing commitment to managing the business’s impact as it continues to grow and meet the increasing needs of South African consumers. The Good business journey includes a 5 year plan to 2012 for development in four key areas: -Accelerating transformation -Driving social development -Protecting the environment with includes a specific goal to increase organic-content clothing sales to more than R1bn per annum -Addressing climate change *The announcement that Woolworths is the world’s third largest consumer of organic cotton was made at the 5th annual Organic Exchange Conference, held in Monterey, California, in November. *According to the Organic Exchange, conventionally grown cotton consumes approximately 25 percent of the insecticides and over 10 percent of the pesticides used in the world. Organic cotton, on the other hand, is produced using only natural fertilisers, pesticides and phosphates, making it much healthier for the environment and safer for farm workers. The growing awareness among consumers of these advantages has sparked a worldwide move towards organic cotton. *Woolworths, together with its supply chain partners and the Organic Exchange, is developing a comprehensive business model for organic cotton farming in South Africa that includes: -Developing organic farming on a commercial scale -Introducing organic cotton as a rotational crop for its organic food farmers -Creating an empowerment model for small-scale organic cotton farming for previously disadvantaged farmers -Developing local infrastructure for technical support, training and development -Creating a benchmark model for other African countries *The Organic Exchange is an independent, non-profit organisation dedicated to promoting the growing, production and use of organically grown cotton throughout the world. Along with major international brands including Marks & Spencer, Nike and Timberland, Woolworths is a sponsor of the Organic Exchange. *The ComMark Trust is a regional development initiative which aims to reduce poverty through improving the legal, regulatory, policy, institutional and business service frameworks that underpin high-growth commodity and service sectors. The Trust embraces the ’making markets work for the poor’, or MMW4P, approach to development. Much of ComMark’s work concentrates on working with government, industry players and business rather than setting up and implementing specific projects. Its primary role is as a thought leader and innovator. Where the Trust does engage in specific markets it works through like-minded, established partners to implement its vision, providing grant funding and technical assistance. The aim is to play a catalytic role so that ComMark’s inevitable exit as a funder will not cause these initiatives to collapse. *Cotton SA is the national forum for the South African cotton industry, and has been for more than thirty years. During this time Cotton SA has established itself as an organisation that interacts and intermediates between all the role players in the cotton pipeline, from producers to retail operations. The organisation is therefore well-positioned and equipped to deliver support services to platforms that are created to maintain and expand the cotton value chain. Cotton SA has been involved in initiatives and projects to introduce cleaner cotton production as well as organic cotton production. This created an environment which encouraged producers to become involved with the process of determining the feasibility of organic cotton production in South Africa. Cotton SA’s involvement is therefore crucial to the successful implementation of sustainable organic cotton production. *Established in 1992, the Agricultural Research Council (ARC) is one of eight statuary science councils in South Africa. Its mandate is to conduct research and development and technology transfer for the improvement of the agricultural sector, and South Africa as a whole. The Institute for Industrial Crops (ARC-IIC) is responsible for research on crop production, breeding and protection of crops such as cotton, hemp, flax and other fibre plantations, cassava and tobacco. ARC-IIC has been conducting research on cotton for more than 100 years. Its main campus is near Rustenburg, and it has eight satellite substations throughout the country. It also interacts with other cotton producing countries within SADC through collaborative projects.