In 2005, WWF and IKEA set out to transform cotton production and secure a sustainable future for the industry by helping farmers earn a better living and improving working conditions, as well as reducing impacts from pesticide use and saving precious water resources.
From an initial effort involving 450 farmers in India and Pakistan – two of the world’s most important cotton-growing countries – WWF and IKEA helped to create the Better Cotton Initiative, an independent multi-stakeholder organisation whose members are committed to making Better Cotton a mainstream product.
The partnership provides support, training and outreach to farmers that want to produce Better Cotton. Some 43,000 farmers in India and Pakistan are involved in our joint projects, taking part in the global shift toward Better Cotton.
Building on our initial success, and starting with a focus on water management within cotton production in Pakistan and India – two areas with strong water risks and challenges – we are now working together to understand IKEA’s water risks and what water stewardship means for the company more broadly.
Farmer Bashaveni Ramadevi, 45, of Ghanapur village in Telangana’s Karimnagar district, has 18 acres of land on which she grows cotton, maize and paddy. But constantly faces the vexing problem of soil erosion. So, when she heard of an innovative new project encouraging cotton farmers in the district to start a mango plantation on their land as a means to check erosion, she was eager to be involved.
Cotton is a major cash crop in the Jalna district of Maharastra, India, but cotton farmers there can experience numerous challenges. Frequent drought and extended dry spells, along with complex geological conditions make accessing water difficult. Cotton farmers often require real-time data and support to help make informed decisions about what preventative or mitigating actions to take. The ‘Cotton Doctor’ mobile app, which the WWF and IKEA partnership works with, is an Android and web-based decision support system which helps cotton farmers to tackle challenges such as weather, water and pests.
It took nearly a decade to get from identifying the problem to setting up the BCI system, but it’s scaled in quite an amazing way and it might be fully conceivable that 25 per cent of global production will be Better Cotton in the next couple of years. The challenge now is to maintain that growth and to keep improving.
“IKEA and WWF share objectives on the sustainable use of natural resources. With deep expertise in forests, cotton and water – all important raw materials for IKEA – WWF is a natural partner on our journey towards being People and Planet Positive and delivering on our ambitious sustainability goals.”
Lena Pripp-Kovac, Sustainability Manager,
IKEA Range & Supply
Umul Baneen is a hard-working woman from Maqboolabad, a rural town in the heart of Punjab in Pakistan’s cotton-growing region. I had the pleasure to meet her and her husband, and hear their story as part of my work as coordinator for WWF Pakistan’s Sustainable Cotton Initiative. This work aims to improve lives and livelihoods of smallholders.
International clothing brands and retailers have a crucial role to play in securing the future of the market for more sustainable cotton. Various types of sustainable cotton production — ‘organic,’ ‘Better Cotton’ and ‘fair trade’ — have grown enormously over the last five years and now make up over 10 percent of total global supply. As a result, buying more sustainable cotton has never been easier. And leading companies such as IKEA and H&M are showing it’s possible to use 100 percent more sustainable cotton in all their products.
IKEA achieves its goal of sourcing 100 per cent of its cotton from more sustainable sources – an important milestone on a journey that began 11 years ago at a small meeting in Sigtuna, Sweden.
IKEA has committed to offering its 600 million customers worldwide over 23 different seafood products certified by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) for wild-caught seafood, and by the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) for farmed fish. This makes them the largest food service provider of responsibly-produced seafood globally.
Thanks to the Cotton Doctor app, with a simple click of a phone, farmers can feed in the time and duration they wants their cotton saplings to be watered, automatically activating water pumps via a SIM card fixed to an automatic irrigation switch in the fields.
The majority of international companies using most cotton globally are failing to deliver on cotton sustainability according to new independent research by Pesticide Action Network (PAN) UK, Solidaridad and WWF.
In a new project, WWF and IKEA will analyse and compare the environmental impact producing cotton in different ways. The project will examine impacts on soil, water and cotton farm surroundings, as well as considering socio-economic impacts in the Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Punjab areas in India.
WWF and IKEA are running a pilot project in India with the aim of delivering more environmental benefits from joint cotton projects. A total of 6,000 project farmers will be trained by a specialist team in ”Better Management Practices” in line with the Better Cotton Initiative standard system. This will include training for drip irrigation system installation in cotton fields for more efficient water use. The project will be implemented in nine of the largest cotton-growing districts in the state of Gujarat.
WWF and IKEA are using the ”Cool farm tool” developed in collaboration with the University of Aberdeen to measure carbon and water footprints from selected cotton projects in India. The aim is to compare conventionally grown cotton with ”Better Cotton” and to highlight the potential for reducing the footprint of cotton production systems. The study will be conducted in Punjab, Maharashtra and Gujarat.