Agricultural businesses and those who rely on their raw materials are benefiting from the social and environmental costs that are not included in the cost they pay. One important example is the Ethiopian Omo Valley that has displaced tribes living among the one million hectares of land the government leased to foreign agricultural investors.
Foreign investment in farmland like this is frequently promoted by investors and host governments, under the guise of new technologies, jobs, and capital (Gonzalez, 2015). However, it is often the case that only the wealthy investor and government officials that benefit through financial gains. In Omo Valley the program was called the 'villagisation programme’; instead of providing new and adequate infrastructure, hundreds of thousands of local people were forced off their land with no compensation, inadequate agricultural support, nor education facilities (Soderpalm & Ringstrom, 2014). These tribes were striped of their land and left with nothing as shareholders and governments prospered due to the promotion of economic growth of the North over the South.
One solution currently used by the textile industry to ensure responsible cotton production and improve the injustice is the use of certifications. Some of these certifications include Fairtrade, Oeko-Tex standard 100, Global Textile Standard, and Better Cotton Initiative. Each certification has their own set of criteria which may or may not overlap with questions of environmental justice and water rights. Nevertheless, they do open up the clarity of the cotton textile supply chain to improve the current conditions of injustice.
For more information on these various certification check my Sustainable Textile Handbook website
Gerdeman, D. (2017). The Clear Connection Between Slavery and American Capitalism. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/hbsworkingknowledge/2017/05/0
Soderpalm, H., & Ringstrom, A. (2014). H&M says seeks to ensure cotton does not come from disputed land. Retrieved from https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-h-m-landgrabbing/hm-says-seeks-to-ensure-cotton-does
Gonzalez, C. G. (2015). Food Justice: An Environmental Justice Critique of the Global Food System. International Environmental Law and the Global South, 401-434. doi:10.1017/cbo9781107295414.020