Sustainability Reigns at the 34th International Cotton Conference 2018

Earlier this month I attended the International Cotton Conference in Bremen, which brings together major stakeholders from across the cotton supply chain to discuss the most pressing issues that facing the industry today.

The need for innovation was an overriding theme throughout the conference, with new technologies for the digitisation of the cotton supply chain presented. Bruce Atherley from Cotton USA focused on how his organisation is helping bring cotton-based innovations to market, to help cotton compete with technical textiles. Similarly, Mark Messura from Cotton Inc, highlighted their Transdry technology for cotton-based sportswear. Traditional farming methods have also seen an injection of technology, with drones and robots utilised to identify and then treat sections of crops that require pesticide or nutrient application.

As part of the event, I was invited to discuss Catexel’s Pegasus system that enables low-temperature bleaching of cotton. Working with global textile auxiliary houses, our Pegasus system, based on a stable manganese metal-complex catalyst (Mn-TMEM), has been successfully developed and used in textile production, where its highly selective performance in aqueous oxidation processes has proven benefits. These include lower temperature exhaust bleaching systems, reduced time, energy and water usage, as well as increased asset utilization and higher cotton yield. Users have also been able to reduce their chemical load, some reducing caustic soda by 30 per cent. Our technology provides a workable solution for an industry looking for ways to improve the sustainability of cotton, in a holistic manner.

View our poster here

Over 40 presentations were given at the show including interesting insights into the latest developments in sustainable technologies for the cotton industry. One such presentation came from Kai Hughes from the International Cotton Advisory Council (ICAC) based in Washington DC, who discussed how his organisation seeks to dispel some of the myths about cotton’s environmental impact, such as the water consumption that goes into the production of a kilogramme of cotton.

A figure of 20,000 litres per kg is cited by the WWF and has been repeated by numerous parties. Of this, it is said that half is required in the farming of cotton. The ICAC undertook their own review, looking at the global cotton growing industry and found an average of 1,214 litre of irrigated water is in fact required per kg of cotton, with more than half of cotton being primarily rainfed. This makes sense, given cotton is a crop found naturally in arid regions, where its long roots can grow deep into the water table.

Transparency, traceability and sustainability across the cotton supply chain were also prevalent themes discussed in the conference sessions.

Heinz Zoller from Hugo Boss discussed their efforts to implement Blockchain, to enable transparency through their own supply chains, seeing various benefits of such technology, including supply chain control, protection against fraud, reducing costs of third parties and safe digital transfer of information and funds. He also highlighted the distrust amongst consumers with a survey reporting that 40% of consumers don’t believe what the brands say. Hugo Boss believes that initiatives such as theirs can provide real data, to build trust in their customer base.

A last-minute addition to the programme was Marzia Lanfranchi, founder of Cotton Diaries. Marzia has previously worked in sustainability for a number of international brands, including Burberry and Fat Face. She saw a disconnect between their sustainability initiatives and the information available to purchasing departments and through the supply chain. Her company is providing a platform to promote innovative technologies and best practice in textile and garment production. It was great to see someone so committed to enabling communication and promoting sustainable and ethical values throughout the supply chain.

All in all, the conference provided a great opportunity to gauge what is happening in the world of cotton, the market conditions and latest innovations.

To find out how a collaborative approach across the supply chain could help lighten the textile industry’s environmental load, download our white paper by clicking here.

Liz Manning, Business Development Manager at Catexel.

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