IKEA has expanded the use of sustainably sourced cotton in its products to 72 percent, up from 34 percent in 2012, according to a recent announcement.
The furniture company uses around 0.6 percent of all cotton grown around the world, and in 2013 sourced 79,000 tons of cotton from more sustainable sources; it used a total of 110,000 tons of cotton in 2013.
IKEA says the increase comes from its work with the WWF on the Better Cotton Initiative (bcI), an independent organization that sets social and environmental criteria for more sustainable cotton production, of which IKEA is a founding member. The cotton industry is troubled with several sustainability issues, including intensive use of water and chemical pesticides and fertilizers, child labor problems and health risks associated with the use of chemicals.
IKEA claims its latest improvements come from an increase in 'better cotton' (59.3 percent from more sustainable sources), cotton grown to other sustainability standards in the US and cotton from farmers working towards the BCI standards.
"Some people suggested IKEA should abandon cotton altogether and some said we should move our sourcing to 'safe' countries like the US,” said Guido Verijke, BCI chair and director of the IKEA Better Cotton Project. "But IKEA is big enough to change things, so instead we decided to work with WWF and do something about the problem."
The company says it also is looking for ways to use cotton more efficiently. For example, IKEA launched a project to standardize the way it constructs fabric, which could reduce the amount of cotton IKEA needs for a piece of fabric by up to 15 percent.
In 2012, H&M, another Swedish company and a fellow member of the BCI, launched a garment recycling initiative to reduce clothing waste, and recently launched a new denim line made from recycled fibers. The range of jeans, vests and jackets will all contain 20 percent recycled cotton — the maximum amount that can be used without compromising the quality. The company claims this new project will “close the loop” on their recycling initiative.