Over 100 brands, retailers and NGOs came together with cotton scientists, farmers and industry to learn about Australia’s sustainable cotton industry at a Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) Forum in Sydney today.
Michael Kobori, Levi Strauss & Co. Vice President - Sustainability.
The event was headlined by global sustainability leader Mr. Michael Kobori from Levi Strauss & Co., who addressed the group about his company's sustainability journey and its involvement with BCI, a sustainability initiative improving cotton production practices in 21 countries including Australia.
“Australia plays a crucial role in sustainable cotton globally, it’s great to see Australian cotton tackling important issues on the farm such as climate change, water use efficiency, pesticides and biodiversity. I’m encouraged by the Australian brands who are supporting BCI, it would be great to see more brands cotton on to the idea,” Mr. Kobori said.
Cotton Australia’s Cotton to Market program manager Brooke Summers said the Forum also heard from leading Australian cotton scientists about the work that underpins the Better Cotton principles around climate change, soil health, water and biodiversity.
“The Australian cotton industry invests over $20 million a year in research and development, with a large proportion of that focused on sustainability. Science and innovation have underpinned the cotton industry’s environmental achievements which include being the most land-use efficient cotton industry in the world,” Brooke said.
With the drought set to worsen in NSW and Queensland, the Forum also heard from a panel of cotton farmers who despite current conditions have all reached full certification in the Better Cotton standard.
“There’s no doubt the drought will impact on the amount of Better Cotton available from Australia next season, especially if we don’t get winter rains. We’re currently predicting a crop of less than 20% normal production, and yet we are at record levels of participation in our sustainability standard with over 80% of our farmers involved,” Brooke said.
The impressive turn out of brands representing more than 20 companies at the Forum is a great sign that sustainability is becoming more a part of the way business is done here in Australia.
“More Australian brands have switched on to sustainable cotton sourcing and are keen to learn about where their raw materials are grown. More and more brands have visited our farms and are recognising that Australian cotton is grown with some of the highest sustainability standards in the world.
“When brands join the Better Cotton Initiative they send a strong signal to our farmers that sustainable cotton is what they want, and this in turn drives participation at farm level,” Brooke said.
Michael Kobori has led sustainability at Levi Strauss & Co. since 2001. Under his tenure, the company has been a pioneer, reducing the environmental impact of its products through its Levi’s® Waste<Less™ and Water<Less™ collections, Dockers® WellThread collection, Care for Our Planet program, and leadership on the Better Cotton Initiative.
In addition, the company has gone beyond labor compliance by publicly disclosing its manufacturing supplier locations, leading the industry in banning sandblasting, and partnering with NGOs and key suppliers to support programs that improve workers’ lives.
Based on its sustainability work, Levi Strauss & Co. was named one of the most innovative companies in the world by FastCompany magazine, which also named Mr. Kobori one of its 1000 Most Creative People in Business.