OTA and Textile Exchange Team Up to Advance Public Policy

The Organic Trade Association (OTA) and Textile Exchange (TE) have forged an important collaboration to strengthen the North American organic textile industry's public policy influence and public relations efforts.

The two groups recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to work together 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 non-food 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 an estimated $15.7 billion in 2014, up 10 percent from 2013.

"This is just the beginning of an exciting collaboration that 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 Marci Zaroff, founder of Under the Canopy. Both an OTA and Textile Exchange Board member, Zaroff 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. 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/or 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 (GOTS), a fully traceable global standard from farm thru processing (spinning, knitting, dyeing and manufacturing) of apparel and home textiles made with organic fiber. USDA's National Organic Program (NOP) has recognized GOTS as the platinum seal for finished organic fiber products and the counterpart to their more widely known organic food certification.

Under the agreement, OTA and TE will work together on legislative advocacy initiatives undertaken by the Fiber Council, advance organic fiber market messaging to consumers, promote awareness and education on both GOTS and the Organic Content Standard (OCS) and certification, develop and participate in media efforts to facilitate awareness and knowledge related to organic fibers, and develop and participate in various industry initiatives such as workshops, seminars and webinars.

For more information, see OTA's website for resources about organic fibers and textiles.
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