Called Farm to Yarn, the program forecasts that by improving wages and living standards of farmers growing organic cotton, it will increase organic cotton harvests and safeguard the world’s environment.
The Costa Mesa, Calif.–based Volcom and its parent company, Kering, a Paris-headquartered luxury conglomerate, started working on the program last year with CottonConnect, a London-headquartered group that works on building sustainable supply chains, teaching sustainable agriculture practices and developing skills of women in the countries where organic supply chains start.
Currently, Volcom is the only Kering brand participating in Farm to Yarn. Kering is the parent company of designer fashion companies Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent and Alexander McQueen.
The program will also guarantee that yarn labeled and sold as organic cotton is indeed organic cotton, said Arvind Rewal, CottonConnect’s South Asia regional director. Certifying cotton as organic can occasionally be a murky process. “This project with Volcom and Kering is a great example of how a company is intentionally seeking traceability in a supply chain that was said to be impossible to map,” Rewal said.
Volcom and CottonConnect quietly started the program in 2017 in eight separate villages in India’s Madhya Pradesh region. The pilot program produced nearly 27 metric tons of organic cotton, which makes up an estimated 15 percent of Volcom’s total organic-cotton supply.
Through a separate 2015 program that took place in India, Kering partnered with CottonConnect. Its sustainable supply chains increased organic-cotton output 16 percent, CottonConnect reported. It also decreased production costs.
The program also offers a yearlong organic-farming-skills program for 150 farmers that includes working to develop natural pest controls and organic fertilizers. Advocates of organic cotton contend that nonorganic cotton farming uses pesticides and fertilizers that poison farm fields and dangerously limit the arability of the land.
The program also offers programs on women’s rights and life skills. “We are truly proud of this program as it embodies both environmental and social benefits,” said Ryan Immegart, chief marketing officer at Volcom. “In addition, it represents another strategic milestone in our never-ending mission to be true to this planet.”