Cartagena, Colombia -- How to define and measure sustainability has long been a topic of ideological debate in the cotton industry. At the 72nd Plenary Meeting of the International Cotton Advisory Committee (ICAC), hundreds of attendees gathered to begin converting those concepts into action.
The 2013 World Café, which debuted at last year's Plenary Meeting in Interlaken, Switzerland, gathered participants into dozens of small groups to collaborate on ways to create a tangible path forward. It's critical for the industry, because cotton is going to need proof that it is being produced sustainably, according to World Café moderator and facilitator Jens Soth.
"The creation of a framework for sustainability measurement is going to happen, so the cotton industry needs to seize the initiative and frame the debate in the appropriate way," said Soth, who is senior advisor at HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation. "If we don't, someone else will -- and then someone else's plans will imposed on the cotton industry."
A reporter at each table summarized the major discussion points and compiled them last night for this morning's presentation. The World Café participants came to a consensus on the following three points:
Any framework for measuring sustainability needs to be implemented on a country-specific basis,
The results of sustainability measurement should not lead to discrimination within the cotton sector, and
A committee of representatives from each country should be created not only to help create the initial framework, but to ensure that it continues to improve as the industry evolves.
Those national boards, which would ideally include representatives from all sectors of the cotton value chain, would then submit their data into an independent, global organization such as ICAC for consolidation and dissemination to other participating nations.
The other moderators and facilitators at the ICAC World Café were Matthias Knappe, program manager for cotton, texiles and clothing with Geneva-based International Trade Centre, and Uwe Grewer EX-ACT consultant with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.