This small bedding startup just beat out heavyweights like Patagonia and Nike to become the biggest consumer of organic cotton worldwide - here's why that matters
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- The Textile Exchange just named husband-and-wife startup Boll & Branch as the largest consumer of Organic Fair Trade Certified cotton, ahead of companies like Patagonia and Nike.
- Why does this matter? Approximately half of all textiles around the world are made of cotton, which is traditionally reliant upon millions of pounds of pesticides. Organic cotton is a much more sustainable alternative.
- Boll & Branch customers pay a premium for sheets (typically $200-$295 depending on size), but get a guilt-free luxury that's replacing environmentally dangerous practices in a high-impact industry.
- Find a review of Boll & Branch sheets here, or check out our buying guide to the best sheets you can buy on the internet here. In the latter, Boll & Branch was ranked the best organic cotton option.
But, given the prevalence of direct-to-consumer companies, that's not always the case.
Take five-year-old startup Boll & Branch, for instance. The company makes luxury sheets via a chemical-free supply chain and sells them online. Insider Picks has named them one of the biggest viral-marketing successes of the past several years and dubbed their sheets among the most luxurious we've ever tried.Recently, Boll & Branch was also named the world's largest consumer of Organic Fair Trade Certified cotton, ahead of longstanding companies like Patagonia and Nike - the latter of which has been working for decades to move to 100% organic cotton by 2020.
For Boll & Branch - and the customers that propelled it to exceed a $100 million run rate in less than five years - using organic materials is important for overall comfort as well as for social and environmental impact.Why is organic cotton better? In short, it's better for you, the environment, and the people that make whatever you're buying. Organic cotton doesn't use pesticides or other harmful chemicals, it requires far less water to produce, and organic growing systems often emphasize the ability to maintain soil fertility and encourage biologically diverse agriculture - replacing systems that typically heavily exhaust and degrade the soil.According to the World Wildlife Fund, approximately half of all textiles are made of cotton, and cotton growing's pollution and diversion of water has had severe impacts on major ecosystems already - including the Aral Sea in Central Asia and the Indus Delta in Pakistan. Thus, it's not just that organic cotton is a sustainable improvement - it's that organic cotton makes much-needed ecological strides in a high-impact industry.Advertisement
"Before selling a single product, we spent a year and a half ensuring we built out a transparent and ethical supply chain," said Boll & Branch CEO and Co-Founder Scott Tannen in a 2018 press release. "From the very beginning, we made the conscious choice to use only 100% organic cotton and worked very hard to ensure Fair Trade - meaning safer working conditions, no child labor, and fair treatment and pay for all of our workers." Tannen told Business Insider in 2017 that this ultimately amounts to farmers earning a living wage that's usually two to three times the commodity price of cotton, and that factory workers are paid a living wage - meaning, not just the minimum wage in their area.
Boll & Branch sheets are great: "Luxurious in every sense of the word - soft to the touch, thoughtfully designed, and premium in looks" as Insider Picks senior editor Ellen Hoffman wrote in her review. And that's why the company has experienced such rapid and continued success.But their customers have also been willing to spend $200 and up on sheet sets in part because they want to own something that feels good to own - a luxury, like diamonds made in labs with solar energy, that didn't include ecological and social damage in the price tag. The combination has created the largest purveyor of organic cotton on earth - from a five-year-old, homegrown startup from New Jersey.Advertisement
If your bedding could use an upgrade - and you can afford the premium - Boll & Branch may be a good bet. To skip the browsing, head straight to the company's bestseller: the Solid Hemmed Sheet Set ($200-$295).
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