Cotton for Change
We’re saying no to conventional cotton and instead partnering with farmers working toward the highest organic cotton standard.
Every year, conventional cotton crops are doused with millions of pounds of chemicals. In California alone in 2021, these crops were sprayed with nearly 1.5 million pounds of pesticides. Research has shown that extensive and intensive use of synthetic fertilizers, soil additives, defoliants and other substances wreak havoc on soil, water, air and many living things. The alternative is to eliminate synthetic chemical use and instead use organically grown cotton.
Our journey to organic cotton began in the 1990s, when we examined our cotton supply chains and the impact that farming these conventional varieties had on our planet. We had thought that cotton was “pure” and “natural” because it was made from a plant—we were right about the plant—but very little is pure or natural about cotton when it is grown conventionally. In the ‘90s, cotton pesticide use peaked at nearly 86 million pounds of chemicals applied to crops.
In 1996, we made a commitment to exclusively use 100% virgin cotton grown with organic practices that eliminate the use of synthetic pesticides, herbicides and GMO seeds in our products. We also incorporate recycled cotton into our raw materials whenever possible, reducing our CO₂e emissions by 82% per kilogram compared to using conventional virgin cotton fiber.
Saying no to conventional cotton
Growing food and fiber with industrial techniques and harmful chemicals is a main contributor to climate change. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, agriculture, along with forestry and other land uses, generates roughly 23% of greenhouse gas emissions every year. Switching from conventional farming methods to organic practices can help turn our agricultural system from problem to solution.
In addition to recycled cotton, we use three types of virgin cotton in Patagonia products:
Organic cotton: Farmers who grow their cotton without harmful chemicals reduce their reliance on big agrochemical companies and reduce their workers’ exposure to potentially toxic and carcinogenic compounds. We began exclusively using 100% organic virgin cotton in our products in 1996. Organically farmed cotton employs nature-based solutions to manage pests while supporting biodiversity, improving the quality of soil and often using less water.
Cotton in Conversion: Sometimes called “In-conversion Cotton” or “Transitional Organic” in the industry, Cotton in Conversion allows farms growing cotton with organic practices to sell their crop while they are in the process of getting certified. Our use of Cotton in Conversion rewards farmers who are committed to reaching organic cotton certification and helps them stay on the path to organic during the multi-year transition. We began this journey with a supply chain partner in Peru, who offers technical assistance and pays a premium to these cotton farmers. Our first line of clothes made with Cotton in Conversion launched in Spring 2020.
Regenerative Organic Certified® Cotton: After committing to organic cotton in 1996, we began supporting farmers to grow cotton using Regenerative Organic Certified® practices, which prioritizes organic, no- and low-till methods that build healthy soil and respect the welfare of people and animals. We piloted a first crop of Regenerative Organic Certified cotton in India in 2018, working with more than 150 farmers to implement this highest organic standard. Since then, the cotton program has grown to include over 2,000 farmers. In Spring 2022, we launched our first collection of Regenerative Organic Certified cotton products.
We hope to launch even more Cotton in Conversion and Regenerative Organic Certified apparel as our program progresses in the next few years. We believe it’s possible to grow food and fiber in a way that promotes soil health and accelerates positive change for people and the environment. It’s not just about doing less harm, but doing some good through the process, too.