Charles hails firms' 'powerful commitment' on sustainable cotton production
The Prince of Wales has hailed an ambitious commitment from leading clothing and retail companies to use 100% sustainable cotton by 2025.
Thirteen businesses including H&M, Ikea, Marks & Spencer, Nike and Sainsbury's have signed a sustainable cotton pledge that campaigners believe will help the environment and support the livelihoods of cotton farmers.
Charles was present at the meeting in central London where representatives of the firms signed up to the communique.
He told those gathered: "Cotton production is all too often associated with the depletion of local water supplies and the widespread, and sometimes indiscriminate, use of harmful pesticides and, as all of you know only too well, it can take a heavy toll on human health.
"Climate change will make this situation worse, with higher temperatures and changing rain patterns likely to cause more severe water shortages in important cotton-growing regions.
"Taken with the increasing prevalence of pests and diseases, it is hard to imagine that yields will not be affected.
"And, as with other agricultural commodities, cotton is also beset by rising costs of production and market volatility, making it difficult for farmers to make a decent living.
"Sustainable cotton production has the added benefit of reducing some of those risk factors considerably and can make a significant contribution to healthy economic growth and higher farm incomes."
More than 20 million tonnes of cotton are produced in over 100 countries each year, making it the most widely produced natural textile in the world.
But with hundreds of litres of water used to make a single T-shirt, significant amounts of pesticides used to help produce cotton and millions of smallholders relying on the crop, action is needed to ensure the industry's long-term viability, say campaigners.
Charles added: "This communique therefore signals a powerful commitment by some of the most well-known clothing and textile companies to put the sector on a more sustainable path, and to ensure its long-term viability."
The Prince addressed the gathering convened by his International Sustainability Unit in collaboration with M&S and the Soil Association.
Peter Melchett, from the Soil Association, said: "This is a significant moment and a demanding commitment to achieve using existing standards - organic, Fairtrade, Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), Cotton Made in Africa and certified recycled cotton."