IKEA announced last week that as of September 2015, all cotton used for its products — from furniture to towels, bedding and other home textiles — comes from more sustainable sources; specifically from farmers that use less water, less chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and are also able to increase their profits. This positions IKEA as the first major retailer to reach this milestone. IKEA says it aims to make more sustainable cotton affordable and accessible, and also to be better for the environment and the people who grow it.
When grown conventionally, cotton requires large amounts of chemicals and water, raising costs and making it harder for farmers to earn a living. Cotton from more sustainable sources includes cotton grown to the Better Cotton Standard by farmers working towards Better Cotton, as well as sustainable cotton from the USA. Since September 2015, all cotton used in IKEA products comes from these Better Cotton Standard sources (though the retailer notes that a small volume of products produced using conventional cotton prior to this time will still be available in stores until sold out). Each year, IKEA uses around 0.7 percent of all the cotton grown around the world, with its main sources from India, Pakistan, Turkey, China, Brazil and the USA. Of this total cotton procurement, approximately 5 percent — or 7,400 metric tons — comes from the US. This includes cotton sources from Texas — where IKEA partners with E3 — and North Carolina.
This sustainable cotton milestone is part of a long journey to help transform the cotton industry. In 2010, IKEA joined forces with WWF and other leading public and private organizations to cofound the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), which aims for 30 percent of global cotton production to be “better cotton” by 2020. IKEA’s other efforts to improve the industry include no longer sourcing from areas such as Uzbekistan, whose cotton production apparently remains rife with child and forced labor issues.
"We are extremely proud of our partnership with IKEA. We applaud them for setting such an ambitious target and for acting as an example to other retailers and brands. IKEA's commitment to BCI helps us fulfill our mission of establishing Better Cotton as a mainstream commodity," says Paola Geremicca, BCI Director of Communications and Fundraising.
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"Cotton from more sustainable sources across all IKEA products is a potential game-changer for the global cotton market because it demonstrates the clear business case for sustainability," says Richard Holland, Director of WWF’s Market Transformation Initiative. "We need more companies to follow IKEA's lead but this milestone shows what's good for people and nature is also good for business."