Setting targets and finding the right partners are ingredients in a more sustainable cotton supply chain says Lindex’s Anna-Karin Dahlberg, speaking to Innovation Forum
How long has Lindex been working with sustainable cotton?
Lindex started looking at how to work with sustainable cotton around 10 years ago. When we reviewed the various standards and options, we determined that the natural choice for us at that time was to buy organic cotton items.
So our initial approach to working with sustainable cotton was to buy organic cotton garments, including GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard
) certified garments. The price difference between organic cotton and GOTS certified garments and conventional cotton was higher than it is now.
We began to buy organic cotton for the products that we thought would be the most valuable to the customer – everyday basics, children’s basics and babywear. Our first internal goal seven years ago was to buy one million organic cotton items, which we had achieved by the end of 2009.
Is there a customer demand leading this?
Sustainable cotton is very important to our business for many reasons. Our customers’ awareness about these issues and demand for sustainable products is very high. This is particularly the case for product categories such as baby wear, where almost 100% of our garments are made from sustainable fibres, and most of these from cotton.
Also, in the light of social concerns such as the debate about Ethiopian cotton connected to land grabbing and also forced labour in Uzbek cotton, for Lindex it is increasingly important to understand where the cotton in our garments comes from. Our goal is to buy 100% of our cotton from sustainable sources that give us transparency and traceability by 2020.
What proportion of your products are currently produced with sustainable cotton?
Of all garments that Lindex bought in 2014, 22% were made of sustainable fibres, and out of that approximately 90% is sustainable cotton. There is still some uncertainty around the cotton in blended garments, thus we cannot report the exact figure of sustainable cotton.
For 2015 our goal is to buy 25% sustainable fibres in total, and for 2020 the goal is 80%. However, for cotton the specific goal is to have a 100% cotton from sustainable sources by 2020.
What are the challenges in developing a sustainable cotton supply chain? How has Lindex addressed these.
Lindex has chosen to work with certifying organisations such as GOTS and initiatives such as the Better Cotton Initiative
When it comes to GOTS, we have chosen a few factories in each production market to work with that are GOTS certified. Our plan is to work with more factories and help them become certified by GOTS as our order volume grows.
The challenge for us has been to choose the right certifying organisations that are credible and where we can trust the certificates, systems and routines. Lindex does not have its own in-house auditors/controllers in its supply chain so we rely on others to ensure the sustainability of our products.
What makes a partnership work?
We have identified our partners based on good reputation, experience and good connections in the industry. For us, interaction and mutual communication and support are very important to make a partnership work. Speed and the same goals are also important factors.
How have you engaged with your customers in developing their understanding of why sustainability matters?
We communicate with our customers on the product itself via hangtags and labels, and have more product information online.
As sustainability is a part of Lindex’s daily business, our aim is to integrate sustainability in everything we do, so we tend not to have one off sustainability campaigns as such. We also use social media to explain what we are doing and to interact with our customers. The response is very positive and we see a rising demand for sustainable garments.
Anna-Karin Dahlberg is production support manager at Lindex, and is participating in Innovation Forum’s cotton supply conference in London 16-17 March.
She will be joined by Gina Tricot, Marks & Spencer, Mark’s Work Wearhouse, John Lewis, Nudie Jeans, Ikea, Primark, Shell Foundation, CottonConnect, Better Cotton Initiative, Textile Exchange, Fair Wear Network, Solidaridad and many more, to discuss sustainable and ethical cotton supply chain engagement and management. Click here for more details and full agenda: Sustainable and Ethical Cotton Sourcing: how to get it right, and make it pay for your business.