When it comes to textile production, India has an interesting history and future. Indian cotton replaced American cotton as an export good to Europe towards the end of the 1800s and it would thus be fair to say that cotton from India served as the raw material for the Industrial Revolution. Today, however, it is not primarily cotton that is exported from India, but ready-made garments.
The Indian textile industries are currently world leaders and they encompass raw materials, spinning, weaving and sewing. It's a big change from the past, when only raw materials were exported and the value-added occurred elsewhere.
"However, there are still considerable sustainability problems in India," says Marcus Bergman at Gina Tricot. "In particular, it's clear that the spinning, weaving and sewing factories have come a long way in terms of social responsibility, while cotton farming and ginning tend to have remained stuck in the 1800s. This shows that India is a country where there are not only large geographic distances to bridge, but very substantial social ones as well.
The difficult issue of child labour is particularly relevant in India. Of the world's more than 200 million child workers, around two-thirds are in agricultural. In a country like India, agriculture is a significant economic sector and it is also socially underdeveloped. Accordingly, this increases the risk of child labour.
"One important component of the Better Cotton Initiative project has to do with providing cotton farmers with the prerequisites for not having to use child workers," explains Marcus Bergman. "Gina Tricot's education programme in Gujaret addresses this and we think it is one of the most important issues. It focuses on strengthening the financial situation of cotton farmers by lowering their overhead costs and increasing their return. But it also reinforces the message that schooling, not child labour, is what will provide the next generation with the best opportunities for supporting themselves. Child labour is sometimes a deeply engrained tradition, so we need to take a long-term approach."