Other countries are much slower to adapt policies and standards, and some might even say that despite years of lobbying, their efforts fall on deaf ears. Canadian Jon Cloud of The Organic Cotton Company, has dedicated his life to organic production. He is fed up that the government refuses to deal with organic standards and that certification organizations, whose standards he feels are weak, are picking up the ball and running with it.
Cloud belonged to the now defunct organic cotton activist group COATS (Canadian Organic Apparel & Textile Standards) who together formed a set of organic standards a few years ago, which were then presented to the federal government. “More than 125,000 people have lost their job in the last five to six years in textiles” states Cloud. “Everything has moved offshore and we really need to pay attention to this. We need standards in Canada that lend integrity to the product in order to make it viable for regional trade”.
Despite Canada’s reluctance to take action on the organic standard, they, along with the U.S. and Japan have chosen to address the labeling of clothing that is being marketed as sustainable.
Canada’s Competition Bureau first announced its legislation of the mislabeling of rayon as bamboo in March 2009, and then later enforced it in August of that year. Considering the large number of bamboo textile suppliers and retailers in Canada, the government worked in partnership with the Retail Council of Canada and the Canadian Apparel Federation to facilitate the compliance process.
On the heels of Canada’s legislation, the United States stepped up enforcement when the Federal Trade Commission laid charges on four bamboo clothing businesses in 2009 who were making false marketing claims that their product was environmentally friendly. And earlier this year the FTC sent warning letters to Wal-Mart, Target and Kmart on the same topic.
Over to Asia, the Japanese government has recently issued a series of guidelines for the labeling of organic cotton products, out of a response to the growing concern over inconsistencies that lead to misunderstandings and confusion over the production, distribution and consumption of organic cotton products. Labels must now comply with the Household Goods Quality Labeling Act and should indicate the percentage of organic cotton content of the product as a whole if the product is labeled as organic cotton.
As consumers, we rely on our government to help us distinguish right from wrong. The good from the bad. And now more than ever, we lack trust in corporations. We are increasingly becoming skeptical of loosely backed environmental claims. And while many fashion businesses are not being held accountable for their actions, or how they market their product to us, through continued awareness, government standards, and collaboration, this will change. And we can look to the UK as a benchmark for this change.
Kelly Drennan is a true social entrepreneur, devoted to making change within an industry known for its many negative social and environmental impacts including labour, energy, waste, water, and the use of toxic chemicals.
Kelly has successfully aligned her company Fashion Takes Action with many leading businesses and ENGOs including Fashion Fights Poverty, Social Alterations, Environmental Defence, Earth Day Canada, Change for the Environment, FEM International, Vancouver Fashion Week, Green Enterprise Ontario, Toronto Greenhouse and Fashion Group International.
As a media “go-to” expert on sustainable fashion, Kelly has been featured in top media outlets including the Globe & Mail, Fashion Television, Metro, Breakfast Television, Toronto Star, Virgin Radio, Green Living Magazine, UK Times and Flare Magazine. Kelly also writes the “green” column for Canada’s fashion industry magazine, Trends,and is a contributor to two of the top US blogs in the “green” space, Elephant Journal and Eco Salon.