In countries around the world, cotton is woven into the fabric of everyday life. While the fabric is used for everything from high fashion to hospital dressings, its cultivation can be harsh on the environment. Another issue: cotton farmers have historically been poorly compensated for their efforts. Can these two problems be addressed at the same time?
Through its transformative initiative, the Primark Sustainable Cotton Programme is proving that producing cotton can be both more sustainable AND provide economic empowerment to women. The program trains farmers across India and Pakistan in more sustainable farming practices, decreasing water, chemical pesticide and fertilizer usage and improving the farmers’ livelihoods through increased income.
On Wednesday, March 3 we held a special session, Using the Power of Partnership to Drive Sustainable Change Presented by Primark, part of Associated British Foods. We heard from the women who created this successful initiative: Katharine Stewart, Group Corporate Responsibility Director at ABF and Primark’s previous Ethical Trade and Environmental Sustainability Director; Alison Ward, CEO of CottonConnect, where she leads a team of over 50 employees, impacting the lives of over 560,000 cotton farmers in India, China, Pakistan and Peru; and Reema Nanavaty, a human rights activist and Director of the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) in India. Jeanne Meserve, award-winning journalist and former CNN correspondent, moderated the conversation.