Cotton - Have You Picked Your's Carefully?

27 May 2014

Cotton grows on only 2.4% of the world’s arable land, yet it is responsible for the release of over US$2 billion of chemical pesticides each year and almost 50% of these are considered toxic enough to be classified as hazardous by the World Health Organisation! 

At Cock & Bull Menswear we find this fact appauling and that's why we are fully committed to producing a sustainable menswear brand.  It simply makes sense to us that clothing should not be made at the expense of others' health, life or well-being nor at the cost of polluting the planet.

Additional Cotton Facts

1. The worlds cotton industry is valued at over $32billion every year.

2.  Over 2/3 of cotton is grown in developing countries and the former USSR.

3.  Cotton, also know as "white gold" is wrought with misery and issues.

4.  Cotton uses almost 25% of all the world’s insecticides and 10% of pesticides.

Issues Surrounding the Production of Conventional Cotton

Child Labour

1.  250 million children globally are compelled to work.  70% of those children are employed in agriculture, where they are at risk from exposure to pesticides and other chemicals, machinery and arduous labour. See the film below:

2.  The cotton industry is no exception, where children are employed in a variety of tasks from cottonseed production to pesticide spraying and the annual cotton harvest.

Slavery in the Cotton Industry

Uzbekistan is one of the largest exporters of cotton and every harvest season it forces millions of its citizens, including children as young as ten, to participate in picking cotton.  Schools are closed and quotas are enforced. In order to meet production quotas Government and private business employees are forced to pick cotton.  The Uzbek government enforces these orders with threats, detentions and torture of Uzbek activists seeking to monitor the situation. The government refuses to allow international monitors into the country.

The Cotton Campaign is calling on governments, industry leaders, manufacturers, brands and consumers to take action to erradicate slavery from the cotton industry.  Ending slavery in the entire supply chain and the aligning of human rights with economic objectives is the only humane respone to this atrocity.  The German Federal Commissioner for Human Rights Markus Löning has  called for a boycott of Uzbek cotton until state-sponsored forced labor is ended by Uzbekistan and human rights are restored. 


Cotton is one of the thirstiest crops in the world taking about 2,720 litres of water to produce one cotton T-shirt, equivalent to what an average person might drink over three years.  Nearly 20% of industrial water pollution comes from textile dyeing and treatment and it is estimated that 8,000 synthetic chemicals are used globally to transform raw materials into textiles which are finally released into freshwater sources

Herbicides, Pesticides,

Nearly $2.6 billion worth of pesticides are sprayed on cotton fields each year — accounting for more than 10% of total pesticide use and nearly 25% of insecticides use worldwide. Herbicides and pesticides are also estimated to kill 16,000 people each year.

The Soil Association Standards

The Soil Association, its standards and activities, and the practice of organic farmers are all based on a set of internationally recognised principles. The Soil Association certifies to the Global Organic Textile Standards (GOTS) – which is the global gold standard for organic textiles. To be certified by GOTS every step of the supply chain needs to be certified i.e. from cultivation of the crop in the field, to spinning of the fibre, manufacture of the cloth to the final product.  All the stages are checked against environmental and social standards.  For more information see Soil Association Organic Textiles.

Dirty White Gold - The Film

A feature-length documentary that unpicks the fashion supply chain and finds out why 300,000 indian farmers have committed suicide to get out of debt.

Free delivery on all UK orders
Free delivery on all UK orders
News & Offers

Sign up to receive occasional newsletters and offers

Newsletter Sign Up