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Better Cotton Initiative Cuts Water, Pesticide Use in Half

Swedish home goods retailer Ikea gave an update this week on the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), noting that the program currently involves more than 100,000 farmers in India, Pakistan, China and Turkey. Ikea is a founding member of the BCI, which aims to make global cotton production better for the people who produce it and the environment.

BCI began in 2005 with 20 weeks of field schooling for 450 cotton farmers. BCI farmers are taught to utilize sustainable practices including the reduction of water, fertilizer and chemicals - while increasing profit margins. Additionally, there are field experiments to complement classroom training for farmers who want to learn how to pass their knowledge on to other farmers in their villages. This includes information about how to reduce chemicals and train farmers on how to reduce pesticides and use pheromone traps to reduce insects.

Providing ‘old world’ knowledge about compost and manure, while reducing the need for costly artificial fertilizers and reducing water consumption, is also part of the farmer’s education.

Improving child rights in cotton growing areas is also a core component to the Better Cotton program. Through the IKEA Foundation, which funds UNICEF and Save the Children programs in cotton-growing areas of India and Pakistan, child labor is reduced to zero. The aim is to create child-friendly communities by getting children into school and helping them to stay in school and get a quality education. These programs will reach some 10 million children, Ikea said.

The benefits from more sustainable cotton cultivation are well noted. Since 2005, noteworthy reductions include:

  • 50% less pesticides
  • 30% less chemical fertilizers
  • 50% less water

Currently 23.8% of all cotton used in Ikea products comes from BCI. The company is targeting 100% by 2015.

In 2011, German sportswear group Adidas made a similar commitment. By 2018 the company aims to use only "Better Cotton" with a midpoint goal of 40% by 2015.

Sweden-based clothing retailer H&M is another member of BCI. H&M has a target to use only cotton from “more sustainable sources” by 2020. In addition to organic cotton, the commitment includes recycled cotton and conventional cotton produced through the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI).

Bart King is a PR/marketing communications consultant and principal at Cleantech Communications.

Bart King is the principal and founder of New Growth Communications, a network of affiliated content producers and strategists serving clients in the emerging green economy. Follow him @bart_king and on LinkedIn.

[Read more about Bart King]

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