kurkku is a company that promotes sustainable lifestyles through providing unique eco-friendly products and services. In 2007, kurkku was the largest organic cotton buyer in Japan with ~30% share. However, at that time we were uncertain of whether organic cotton is really better than conventional cotton or if it is just another fashion trend. As the largest buyer of organic cotton in Japan we decided to visit India to see how cotton is actually grown and investigate whether our organic t-shirt sales are truly contributing to a better society. Also, kurkku has always had the belief that, as consumers in developed countries, there are always opportunities to make the world a better place by understanding what is happening in the upstream part of the supply chain and addressing issues there.
So we visited India and there we saw farmers handling agricultural chemicals with bare hands, those chemicals flowing into wells, which farmers were obtaining their drinking water from. Some of those farmers suffered serious health issues and noticeable skin disease. We also found out that investments in chemical pesticides and seeds were a serious financial burden that entail the risk of becoming deeply indebted, especially for small scale farmers.
When we asked them "why not change to organic cotton farming?" we learned that the biggest challenge for them is the 2-3 years of transition period and yield decrease they experience until their harvest can be certified as organic. That is when we strongly felt the need to develop a system where farmers can grow cotton without going through such health and financial burden. We came up with a model to support the transition period, the biggest barrier for farmers to convert from conventional to organic cotton, and this is how our Pre Organic Cotton initiative started. kurkku decided to grow the project together with textile leader Itochu who shares the same sense of mission towards sustainable apparel. Since then, we have supported thousands of farmers' transition from conventional to organic farming.
Along our journey to support organic cotton farming, we found out that not only farmers but various stakeholders in the supply chain each face different issues such as availability of non-GMO cotton seeds, lack of information on organic cotton demand for upstream players in the value chain, and lack of access to reliable or established organic cotton suppliers for buyers. Since then we have evolved our business model to support not only farmers but to serve various commercial needs of stakeholders in the entire organic cotton supply chain by bridging information gaps and enhancing supply chain efficiencies.