Current Issue
This Month's Print Issue

Follow Fast Company

We’ll come to you.

Why Is H&M Selling Fake Organic Cotton?


H&M got in trouble late last year for destroying unused clothing instead of giving it away to charity; now the clothing giant is under fire again for selling certified organic cotton clothing that isn't actually organic. The Swedish company isn't the only retailer being accused of fraud—European companies C&A and Tchibo are also being accused of selling organic cotton tainted with GMO cotton from India. The most troubling part: none of the companies involved knew that the organic cotton wasn't pure.

According to independent testing laboratory Impetus in Bremerhaven, 30% of tested organic cotton from the stores in question contained genetically modified material. The fraud is probably bigger than just these three brands—all of the tested cotton came from India, which produced 61% of all organic cotton last year.

It's hard to say what should be done to prevent organic cotton fraud from continuing. Ecotextile News writes:

There has been a strong suggestion in the sustainable textile industry that all has not been well in certain sections of the Indian organic cotton sector for some time. Reports from reliable, trusted organisations and producer groups about fraud within the Indian sector of the organic cotton industry have been common-place. The industry now needs to establish firmer rules of governance over organic cotton production, while brands need to invest more in improved supply chain transparency and more thorough testing.

Fair enough, but supply chain transparency and testing doesn't come cheap—without serious pushback from customers, what incentive do chains like H&M have to prevent GMO cotton from slipping into their clothing?

[Via Ecouterre]