H&M keen on working with Asian suppliers

H&M reaches out to farmers to produce better cotton with less pesticides and water

BETTER COTTON. Major retailer H&M is keen on working with Asian suppliers to produce better cotton. Photo taken from the BCI website

MANILA, Philippines – The world’s second largest fashion retailer, Hennes & Mauritz AB (H&M), is looking for partners in Asia to help them produce sustainable cotton they can use for their garments. 

At the opening of the 3-day Asia Water Week at the Asian Development Bank (ADB) on March 13, H&M Global Sustainability Manager Fredrik Rosenholm said the company said Asia is important for their business not only as a customer base but also a source of raw materials. 

Rosenholm said that through the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), a partnership between the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and major brands like H&M and Ikea, they were able to reach cotton farmers and teach them to farm cotton, a water-wasting crop, with less pesticides and water. 

“Asia is very important to us. A lot of the production of the raw material, the cotton, is in Asia. A lot of the production facilities are in Asia. A lot of the future consumers are in Asia,” Rosenholm said. 

“I consider us a team of fish,” he said, making an analogy to their efforts to reach out to other stakeholders. “It’s not enough being a team of fish in a very big pond. We need to reach out to other stakeholders and do it even better,” he added. 

Water at core of business

Rosenholm said that, usually, producing a single cotton shirt requires as much as 3,000 liters of water. But in their case this has already significantly gone down through their use of organic cotton, and BCI cotton or better cotton. 

He said that through their use of better cotton, they have been able to spare as much as 140,000 kilos of pesticide. This has also helped them reduce the water needs of the raw cotton they need to produce their garments by about 20% across the board.  

This, he said, is the reason why water issues are so important to them – it strikes at the heart of their business. Rosenholm said in Dhaka, Bangladesh where they are present, they are concerned about the water supply since the groundwater there is sinking. 

“Water is an essential ingredient in fashion and our business. Water risk has become business risk,” Rosenholm said. 

COTTON FARMING. H&M reaches out to farmers and help them produce cotton that has less pesticides and water. Photo taken from the BCI website

Sustainable cotton

The WWF website stated that the BCI was founded in 2005 by Adidas, Gap Inc., H&M, ICCO, IFAP, IFC, IKEA, Organic Exchange, Oxfam, PAN UK, and WWF.

The Initiative has defined Better Cotton as being produced by farmers who:

  • Minimize the harmful impact of crop protection practices
  • Use water efficiently and care for the availability of water
  • Care for the health of the soil
  • Conserve natural habitats
  • Care for and preserve the quality of the fibre
  • Promote decent work

In 2009, the BCI published its first global standards, and the first harvest of Better Cotton is expected from the 2010 growing season. – Rappler.com